What's bringing together 58 tribes in 19 different states in the U.S.?
The buffalo, also known as bison.

What's bringing together 58 tribes in 19 different states in the U.S.?
The buffalo, also known as bison.

The Intertribal Buffalo Council is working with schools throughout Indian Country to introduce buffalo meat into their school lunch programs.
Four Winds School at Fort Totten is the first school to grasp the vision and implement it for their students.

Starting with summer school students will have a meal featuring buffalo meat once a week, according to Raymond Jetty who sits on the council's Board of Directors.

Jetty manages the buffalo herd for the Spirit Lake Nation and says that this is a really good and positive thing for the students. Buffalo is served whenever there is a special event at Spirit Lake, but it hadn't been served regularly in the schools until now.

Last week the summer school students had a real treat when the cooks made home-made pizza that had buffalo meat and vegetables as toppings. Two members from the Intertribal Buffalo Council, Dianne Amiotte-Seidel and Sandra Whiteshield from South Dakota visited the school with Jetty to promote the benefits of eating buffalo.

They gave a presentation to the students and allowed them to come forward and experience hands-on each item from Whiteshield's "Buffalo Box." It contained the many parts of the buffalo that native peoples made use of throughout the ages - the bladder for carrying water, the bones for tools, tendons and muscles for bowstrings and so on. Every part of the animal was used for some purpose.

Although Four Winds is the first school to sign on to the program, they are working with several other schools throughout the country and hope to very soon have eight to 16 schools signed up.

Amiotte-Seidel explained how Four Winds is unique among the schools they've toured because after the school children are finished eating, the community is invited in and for a nominal fee - $3.00 per person - they can eat at the school, too.

Jetty is not sure that once the regular school year starts back up they will be able to serve buffalo every week at Four Winds but he said he thought maybe they would be able to do it every other week or once a month, for sure.

The program is funded through a grant from the federal government. It's main focus is about health, education and bringing the buffalo back to the people. They work with the tribe's own infrastructure and resources to provide the meat to the schools.

Spirit Lake's own herd of buffalo started back in the 1980s with only five head, but now boasts over 150 head with 40 new calves born this spring Jetty reported.

Amiotte-Seidel and White shield said the students they'd met at Four Winds were the most polite, well-mannered students they had encountered in their work around the country.

They said they are looking forward to coming back to Spirit Lake and checked on the program to see how it is working out for the school.
They provide recipes for the school's cooks to use in preparing the meat because it is different from cooking with beef, "You have to use lower temperatures and cook it longer, slower," Amiotte-Seidel explained.
She said the health benefits are almost as important as the traditions in encouraging more use of buffalo meat. "With diabetes and other health difficulties that Native people struggle with, buffalo is a much better choice because of its omega 3 content and low fat and cholesterol content."

About The Intertribal Buffalo Council
The ITBC exists to act as a facilitator in coordinating education and training programs, developing marketing strategies, coordinating the transfer of surplus buffalo from national parks and tribal lands and providing sound management plans that will help each tribal herd become a successful and self-sufficient operation.