How tribes in Wisconsin are reintroducing the bison with an eye toward food sovereignty and cultural revitalization

Bison are returning to the Menominee Reservation thanks to a new partnership.
Bison are returning to the Menominee Reservation thanks to a new partnership.

MIDDLE VILLAGE – More bison are returning to Wisconsin to be managed by tribal nations.

The Menominee Nation this winter received 10 bison through a partnership among the South Dakota-based Intertribal Buffalo Council, The Nature Conservancy in Illinois and the U.S. Department of Agriculture .

“Right now, the whole idea for us is to reintroduce ourselves to the bison,” said Guy Reiter, whose Menominee name is Anahkwet and is the executive director of the Menominee community organization Menīkānaehkem, Inc. “They played a role at one time in our culture.”

The bison currently have about 66 acres to roam between pastures on the Menominee reservation, Anahkwet said. Much of that land had once been a non-tribal farm that used chemicals. Now under tribal management, a restoration process that includes the Indigenous technique of prescribed burning is bringing back native grass for the bison to feed on.

One future goal is to harvest bison meat for tribal citizens as a healthy alternative to Western beef, Anahkwet said.

For now, though, the initial goal is to grow the herd and observe how the bison acclimate to the natural grass.

Bison and prairie grass are thought to be mutually beneficial. The grass feeds the bison while the animals trample the grass, which stimulates new growth. The bison also leave behind manure, which serves as fertilizer.The Forest County Potawatomi Community also received 10 bison through the partnership to add to that tribe’s herd. The Potawatomi farm currently provides about 2,000 pounds of grass-fed bison beef annually to tribal citizens.Grass-fed beef […]

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