‘Just elated’: Tribe harvests first bison in decades

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By Nora Mabie

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BEARS PAW MOUNTAINS, Montana ( Missoulian ) — History was made earlier this week when the Chippewa Cree Tribe harvested its first bison in decades.

Members of the Rocky Boy Buffalo Project board used a firearm to harvest the bison. The Buffalo Project, which manages the tribe’s herd, donated 80 pounds of bison meat to the upcoming youth powwow and the remaining 380 pounds to the tribe’s food bank.

“We’re just elated,” said Jason Belcourt, the tribe’s sustainability coordinator. “We wanted to give this buffalo back to the community and what better way to do that?”

Bison haven’t roamed the Rocky Boy Reservation since the 1990s. Belcourt said back then, the tribe didn’t have money allocated to sustain the herd. Without funds for management, fencing and equipment, the herd dwindled.

But that changed when the Chippewa Cree Tribe welcomed the return of bison to their tribal lands in October. The American Prairie Reserve donated nine, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes donated five. This spring, six bison calves were born — the first on the reservation in decades.Belcourt said for the herd to be sustainable the tribe hopes to maintain a 60% cows to 40% bulls ratio. To do so, the tribe will harvest two more bulls this year.Native Americans used bison for food, shelter, clothing and ceremony, but in the 1800s settlers killed millions of bison, in part to devastate Native communities that relied on them.Now, Belcourt said seeing the animals […]

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