Tribal Buffalo

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Tribal Bison

Idaho’s , Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Bison herd was established in 1966 with 21 buffalo acquired from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. The current herd ranges from 300 to 400 head and are decedents of this start.

Six of the seven reservations in Montana own bison. In 2010, approximately 2,348 bison were managed by these tribes. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe started their Bison Program in the latter half of the 1970s when it received ten bison from the State of Nebraska, through a private donation. Montana’s Crow Reservation has the largest herd of 1,000 bison on approximately 300,000 acres.

Since the early 1980s, the Southern Ute Tribe has managed a small herd of bison, primarily for cultural preservation and nutritional/dietary purposes. Currently there is a herd at approximately 30 head with a 350 acre fenced pasture near Ignacio, Colorado.

In 2011, Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation received 70 bison, from Yellowstone National Park. The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission voted to transfer 68 bison.  In 2013, 34 bison were transferred from Fort Peck to the Fort Belknap Reservation to begin a herd there. Joined with  the 1990’s herd of 200 (from YNP)

2014 Currently, there are groups like the Intertribal Buffalo Council (formed in 1990), made up of 59 tribes, which own 15,000 to 20,000 buffalo intended to serve tribal communities..

ITBC member nation bison conservation programs include efforts by the Fort Peck Reservation in northeast Montana, home to the Sioux divisions of Sisseton, Wahpetons, the Yanktonais and the Teton Hunkpapa as well as the Assiniboine bands of Canoe Paddler and Red Bottom. The Fort Peck Tribes Fish and Game Department maintains Turtle Mound Buffalo ranch in Montana, which has about 200 head (2013) in the buffalo herd. Buffalo were reintroduced to this area in 1999.

The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska has been reintroducing bison to the native homelands since the Tribe was restored in 1990. With assistance from the ITBC, the Ponca Tribe now has a herd of nearly 100 animals in two pastures.

2014, 40 females from the Badlands made their way to the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation has also added 12 bull bison from Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

In April 2016, bison from Canada’s Elk Island National Park, to Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation. These bison will start a herd that will eventually roam more than 4,000 square miles of the Blackfeet reservation, Glacier National Park and Badger-Two Medicine wilderness. These bison are descendants of 410 bison bought by the Canadian government and transferred from Montana in 1907.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation co-manage the National Bison Range in western Montana, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In June 2016, the tribes released draft legislation hoping to transfer the National Bison Range from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Secretary of the Interior. The land would then be held in trust for the tribe and they would manage the 400 bison on the range.Bottom of Form


November 2016, ten bison were released onto part of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. The Eastern Shoshone Tribe is hoping this start of a bison herd will one day number a thousand animals. The reservation has about 750,000 acres that could carry bison, more land than that available inside Yellowstone National Park. The ten bison came from a genetically pure strain the federal government maintains in Iowa.