Yellowstone Bison Transports: Repatriation for Native Nation

It was "zero-dark thirty," as we say when departing before morning to go on a field expedition. Every winter, I look forward to transporting wild bison 500 miles from Yellowstone to Montana's Fort Peck Indian Reservation. 

The Yellowstone Bison Conservation Transfer Program (BCTP) is dedicated to assisting Native American tribes in restoring their buffalo numbers.

The cultural and ecological restoration of bison to the plains, known as Tatanka in Lakota and Iinnii in Blackfeet, is a key program for Defenders of Wildlife.

 For the program, I am in charge of coordinating and transportation, which includes hiring Blackfeet Tribal vehicles and drivers.  

I also collaborate closely with partners such as Robbie Magnan, a member of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes and the director of the Fort Peck Game and Fish Department. 

 I've been working with Robbie for about seven years, campaigning for the Fort Peck Tribes to acquire Yellowstone bison under the BCTP. I also assisted Robbie with the administration of Fort Peck's cultural herd.

Our collaboration entails assisting the Tribes in acquiring and connecting land for bison habitat, as well as providing wildlife-friendly perimeter fence for the expanding herd.  

 Jonny BearCub Stiffarm, the leader of the Fort Peck Pte (Buffalo) Group, told me about obtaining bison, "It is our narrative. How we come together as a community, learning and experiencing the buffalo for our people." 

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