Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Wind Cave Ceremony Honors American Bison

Courtesy National Park Service

Wind Cave National Park celebrated the designation of the bison as our country’s National Mammal this week.  Participants heard about the history of the animal within Native American cultures and the role it continues to play in the 21st century.
It’s a beautiful Fall afternoon as dozens of visitors gather at Wind Cave National Park for a ceremony to honor the American bison.

Called “buffalo” by many Native Americans…the massive animals were almost extinct by the dawn of the 20th century. But efforts by conservationists, ranchers and private citizens alongside President Theodore Roosevelt helped turn the tide.

“In 1911,” says Wind cave National Park Superintendent Vidal Davila, “the American Bison Society was searching for lands to which to reestablish a bison herd in the midst of the Great Plains. The open grasslands of the park attracted the Society to this area.”

Fourteen buffalo were transported from the Bronx Zoo to Wind Cave National Park in 1913. Their relocation was part of a nationwide effort to “bring back the bison”.

Credit Courtesy InterTribal Buffalo Council
The first buffalo calf of 2016 - born into the Yankton Sioux Tribe's herd. The Yankton are one of 63 member tribes of the InterTribal Buffalo Council.

A century later there are more than 500,000 American bison on federal lands, tribal lands and in private herds.

Jim Stone is Executive Director of the InterTribal Buffalo Council. His group helps 63 member tribes facilitate the significant responsibility of raising a buffalo herd.

“We have biologists that work on management practices with tribes,” explains Stone. “(They)...conduct trainings...facilitate the transfer of animals and then really look at how do we incorporate buffalo back into the lives of tribal members…whether it’s diet…religion…ceremony…the cultural rejuvenation part of it and still keep it a wild animal.”

Wind Cave National Park currently has a bison herd that numbers 450. Since 1987 the park has shipped over 1700 bison to state parks, tribal lands and to Mexico.

The Great Sioux Nation’s oral tradition states that the buffalo and the Sioux originated at Wind Cave. Jim Stone says seeing buffalo leave Wind Cave National Park for other parts of the continent is the completion of a circle for the Great Sioux Nation.

Related link: 

Wind Cave Celebrates Bison 100th Anniversary 

By Jim Kent Aug 16, 2013