Marsha Small: Loss of bison led to rise of diabetes among tribes

Bison in Yellowstone National Park. Photo from Daniel Mayer / Wikipedia

Marsha Small, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who works as the Montana tribal outreach associate for the National Wildlife Federation, calls for the return of bison to their ancestral territory:
This summer, I’m attending tribal celebrations throughout Montana. I’ve spoken with hundreds of people from tribes across Montana and beyond about restoring buffalo in and around the million-acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. Native voices speak loudly and clearly in support of restoring buffalo in Montana.

“I miss the taste of buffalo,” an Elder told me recently. “Boy, we would cook that meat with those mushrooms that grow on them trees. It was really good.” A lonesome stare came over her face, and I wondered at the memory that could make her look so lost. Another approached me and said, “I haven’t had buffalo meat for a l-o-o-n-g time.”

A middle-aged guy dressed in Army fatigues fished out his dried moose meat and mashed berries to share with me, saying he wished it were buffalo. He reminded me that, because of the loss of traditional foods, diabetes is rampant in Indian Country. “I know,” I replied.

The loss of the buffalo has created many voids in many families. One man told me he could sure use a buffalo hide for a new drum.

I can’t stop thinking about the little girl who said the only buffalo she’s ever seen was on the photographic banner I’ve been raising at tribal celebrations. Or the boy who said the only buffalo he’s seen was in a zoo. No one should have to visit a zoo to connect with his heritage.

Get the Story:
Marsha F. Small: Restoring buffalo is an act of healing (The Great Falls Tribune 8/15)

Also Today:
For some Yellowstone bison, the roaming ends at the slaughterhouse (The Washington Post 8/16)

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