Editorial: Oglala Sioux Tribe restores buffalo

"No one appreciates the bison’s history on the Great Plains more than Birgil Kills Straight, executive director of the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority. Kills Straight manages the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s herd of 860 bison, including calves. It’s part of his job to insure that the animal plays an important role in his tribe’s future, too.

He hopes to attend today’s conference, but it’s been a long month as the tribe works to relocate bison off the 17,000 acres of pastureland near Pine Ridge that burned in the Stampede Fire. The tribe has allocated rangeland for only about 690 animals, so it harvests and sells as many as 250 animals each year.

In a culture that puts communal interests before individual success, the OST herd has played a unique role in promoting the spiritual and nutritional needs of the reservation community.

Individuals, schools and many community organizations, such as elderly meals and diabetic education and prevention programs, can access low-cost buffalo meat through the tribe. Groups hosting a sundance, a religious ceremony celebrated by the Lakota, can buy an entire buffalo for $250, plus processing costs, from OST Parks and Recreation. Individual tribal members can buy a 2- or 3-year-old buffalo, for about $400, plus processing costs. That’s an economical source of free-range, grass-fed, hormone-free meat that has been touted for its nutritional value and low-fat qualities.

The family of any deceased tribal member is given 50 pounds of processed buffalo meat to serve at the funeral or wake. Between 150 and 200 funerals each year on the Pine Ridge Reservation get that free gift from the larger community.

Kills Straight is proud of those practical contributions the herd makes to the reservation, as a source of food and finances. But he said the buffalo has greater meaning than just its meat to his people."

Get the Story:
Editorial: OST bison herd brings buffalo back to tribal life (The Rapid City Journal 7/27)

Relevant Links:
Oglala Sioux Tribe - http://www.lakotamall.com/oglalasiouxtribe
The Inter-Tribal Bison Cooperative - http://www.intertribalbison.org

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