Bison could soon become the country’s National Mammal. The US House and Senate passed the National Bison Legacy Act. It’s awaiting President Obama’s signature.
Congresswoman Kristi Noem says the National Bison Legacy Act recognizes the animal’s importance to agriculture and the economy, as well as conservation. She says the legislation is significant for tribes in South Dakota, because bison represent a vital part of their culture and heritage.
“Tribes have utilized this animal, every bit of it, both to provide food, shelter, tools, clothing,” Noem says. “They’re important both physically and spiritually in their culture, and they serve as a symbol of survival in how to live in a healthy and productive manner.”
Noem says the measure is bi-partisan and widely supported.
Dan O’Brien co-owns Wild Idea Buffalo Company in Rapid City. He says bison evoke ideas of freedom and a clean place to live. He says he hopes making bison the national mammal causes Americans to think about environmental decisions.
“My big hope is that we could look past the commercial nature of the buffalo industry and see that this is an icon of a real injustice that we’ve done in this continent,” O’Brien says. “Not only the bison, but all of the creatures, particularly on the Great Plains, and the bison is really just an emblem of all of those creatures that have suffered from our greed.”
O’Brien says he hopes the legislation opens the door to genuine education, and helps protect bison and the environment on the Great Plains.