Bring On The Bison

Native American groups unite to sign historic bison accord.

Native groups from the United States and Canada signed a historic treaty this week intended to establish intertribal alliances and restore free-ranging bison to Tribal and First Nations Reserves or co-managed lands in both countries.

The Northern Tribes Buffalo Treaty—the first among the tribes in 150 years—was signed in Blackfeet territory in Browning, Montana, on September 23, coinciding with the Autumnal Equinox.

The event brought together members of the Blackfeet Nation, Blood Tribe, Siksika Nation, Piikani Nation, the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Fort Peck Indian Reservation, the Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Indian Reservation, and the Tsuu T’ina Nation.


The last treaty signed by the assembled tribes, The Lame Bull Treaty of 1855, established a large common hunting ground and focused on preserving native cultures and ways of life.

The Native American tribes and their indigenous Canadian counterparts—known as the First Nations in Canada—hope to restore the ability of bison to roam freely between the US/Canada border and “reestablish the animal’s important position at the center of the tribes’ cultures.Collectively, they own and manage about 6.3 million acres of grassland and prairie on both sides of the border.

“This is an historic moment that we hope will translate into a conservation movement among Great Plains Tribes,” Keith Aune said in a press release on Wednesday. Aune is the bison program director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, chairman of the IUCN Bison Specialist Group and an American Bison Society spokesperson.

The species American bison (Bison bison) is referred to in the treaty and by the native tribes as “American buffalo.”

Some bison herds currently exist on national grasslands and in U.S. national parks such as Yellowstone, and often pose problems for ranchers and wildlife managers because they can carry brucellosis, a fatal disease that can be transmitted to cattle and elk.

Presently, sportsmen a can take part in limited, fair-chase draw hunts for bison in Alaska, Arizona, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.


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