LETTER TO THE EDITOR: RESTORATION: RETURNING BISON TO THE TRIBAL LANDS OF NORTH DAKOTA
The presence of bison in North Dakota is meaningful to people across the state. However, no other groups have more reverence for these majestic animals than the indigenous tribes who have a long and close cultural bond with the bison. These animals supported North Dakota's native peoples' principal economy for thousands of years by providing food, clothing, tools, and shelter. North Dakota's native culture and people were devastated when bison were purposely driven nearly to extinction in the nineteenth century. Now, five tribes seek to restore and maintain their cultural practices and strengthen their sovereignty by reconnecting with these sacred animals.
During this year's Dakota Bison Symposium at Bismarck State College, a lasting InterTribal Bison Alliance Agreement will be signed between the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation, the Spirit Lake Tribe, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. The signing of the agreement commences a cooperative effort to restore bison to the large expanse of grassland and prairie habitat on these Nations' tribal lands.
In support of this initiative, the United States Department of Interior (DOI) has committed to a policy of global bison stewardship, which addresses managing bison for ecological, genetic, cultural, educational, and human nutritional purposes. The DOI's 2020 Bison Conservation Initiative reaffirmed its commitment to leadership and partnership to ensure the conservation and restoration of bison. As part of the Bison Conservation Initiative, the DOI has committed to provide opportunities to restore cultural connections to bison by working with tribes. DOI manages numerous bison herds on DOI lands, including the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Due to the success of DOI herds, bison need to be removed regularly to keep the herds from exceeding their desired population sizes in parks. By returning/restoring these animals to the Tribes, both the Tribes' and DOI's goals can be met.
The Azimuth World Foundation, based in Bismarck, supports the InterTribal Bison Alliance Agreement and the DOI's Bison Conservation Initiative. One of AWF's goals is to fight for/contribute to a world where humankind and nature thrive in harmony. Returning the bison to North Dakota's tribal lands will strengthen and renew ancient cultural and spiritual relationships and carry the promise of bison into the future.
Mariana Marques, Devils Lake