35 Montana bison moved to South Dakota reservation

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Thirty-five bison have been moved from Montana to their new home on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota as part of an effort to expand the herd.

The bison were a gift from the American Prairie Reserve in north-central Montana. The Billings Gazette reported that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s goal is to expand the herd near Mission, South Dakota, to 1,500 bison spread across 28000 acres (113 square kilometers), which would make it the largest tribal-managed bison herd in the U.S.

The herd is currently numbered at 134 bison, and American Prairie has agreed to contribute up to 170 bison.

“When the buffalo are strong, we will be strong,” said Wizipan Little Elk, chief executive of Rosebud Economic Development Corporation, which oversees the Wolakota Buffalo Range near Mission, South Dakota.

“We are doing our part to ensure the genetic health and longevity of our buffalo relatives,” Little Elk said in a post on the tribe’s website.

American Prairie Reserve has also shipped four bison to One Spirit, a nonprofit organization serving the Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. One Spirit's website says it supports the Lakota community by providing resources that "allow them to meet the needs of their people according to their own culture, traditions and values.”

“We prioritize partnerships with native tribes who are working to restore a deeper cultural, spiritual and economic connection to the animal,” said Alison Fox, chief executive of American Prairie Reserve.

Since 2009, American Prairie has distributed more than 400 bison to conservation and tribal herds in Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, Arizona, South Dakota and Oklahoma.

“The return of the buffalo to our lands is a common goal and vision shared with tribal elders, the tribal council, wildlife managers and spiritual leaders,” said Bronc Speak Thunder, who helps manage the Fort Belknap bison program.