Ryan Dreveskracht: Another threat to bison and tribal rights

Ryan Dreveskracht on anti-tribal bison bills in Montana:
Since the 19th Century, the plight of the North American bison has paralleled the way of the indigenous people of Buffalo Country and the land itself: decimation by non-tribal peoples, almost to the point of extinction. Likewise, nearly 150 years later, as the people and land known as “Indian Country” are in renaissance, the buffalo have also returned. But no sooner than Great Plains indigenous people have brought the buffalo back from the brink, do forces like the State of Montana threaten that hegemony of indigenous people, the buffalo, and the land.

The obliteration of bison indigenous to the North American continent was abrupt, swift, and utterly transformative. In an estimated ten-year span, concentrated mostly in the 1870s, the number of these animals on the Great Plains went from “many millions . . . to ‘near extinction.’”[1] At one point, it was estimated that a mere 1,000 living representatives of the species were left in existence. Today, although commercial enterprises on private lands have raised the bison population to around 500,000, the number of wild free-ranging bison remains meek; roughly 14,500 bison exercise natural movement patterns, and that number is confined to less than one percent of their original range. Because these bison are absent from most of their former range, “their grazing does not influence the grassland-fire or nutrient-cycling regimes, and they rarely create habitat or provide food for other native species” such that these animals do not experience a full suite of natural selection forces as they would have in the wild 200 years ago.

This menagerie of species has led to a genetic disease, brucellosis, being found in roughly thirty to sixty percent of today’s bison, depending on who you ask. The disease has allegedly caused a problem for people who live in their areas.

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Ryan Dreveskracht: Montana’s Bison Bills: Another Attack On Buffalo Country (Indian Country Today 5/12)

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