National Bison Day Celebrates American Icon

Nov 4, 2013



Bison from Wind Cave National Park herd roams the Black Hills on National Bison Day.
Credit Photo by Jim Kent

In response to a U.S. Senate resolution businesses, Native American tribes and environmental groups across the country celebrated National Bison Day on November 2nd. 

The resurgence of America’s largest land mammal over recent years has had an impact on Natives and non-Natives alike.

At the turn of the 20th century there were less than two dozen free-roaming bison - or buffalo - in the United States and some 1,100 on privately owned ranches and preserves. This compared to the 60 million that were estimated to have roamed the country prior to America’s “Westward Movement” of the mid-1800s.

Efforts by the New York Zoological Society and the American Bison Society helped save the animal from extinction.

Among those locations that received bison from these groups to restore their local buffalo populations was Wind Cave National Park. Tom Farrell is the park’s spokesperson.

“When you think about the American West, you think about the bison,” Farrell observes. “They say that bringing back the bison is probably one of the best success stories that conservation has. And so nowadays you see bison throughout the country…a lot of privately-owned herds, a lot of federally-owned herds…it really has done something to protect this magnificent animal.”

The Museum of the American Bison is located in Rapid City. Museum curator Susan Ricci says she’d like people to think about the bison’s ability to endure each time they see one.

“I want people to see a buffalo and understand what an amazing survivor the buffalo is,” Ricci explains. “The bison made it through the Ice Age and made it through nearly being exterminated – down to just a few hundred animals. And now we have 450,000 buffalo in America today. And that’s incredible.”

Susan Ricci adds that, like the bison that are so much a part of their culture, Native Americans have also survived.