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Case #817

Bison Ranching Enhances Native American Cultural Heritage and Identity


For Native American rancher Fred DuBray, bringing bison back to the Great Plains is a way to help restore the health and culture of his people and give them an economic boost. DuBray seems less interested in profiting from bison than in learning from them. He believes the structure of Native American tribes on the plains was modeled after the buffalo herds that provided their food and many other resources.

He tells of seeing the wolf running among buffalo that had never seen a wolf. "The wolf stalked a young bull. When the little bison turned to face him, the wolf hesitated, surprised. He was even more surprised when the entire herd turned toward him, positioning four or five big bulls in the front. Then the bison began breathing in unison, a rush of air that shook the ground. The wolf ran, tail between its legs. DuBray was awed by the result: the herd standing in formation, breathing together like one giant buffalo."

DuBray laughs at his experiment. "I just wanted to see that instinctual knowledge kick in with those buffalo and wolves. It's the same with Indian children. Put them back on the land, and their instincts kick in."

DuBray cofounded the InterTribal Bison Cooperative (ITBC) in 1991, an organization dedicated to rebuilding the herds that once roamed North America. Only reservations, DuBray realized, had the land base to raise buffalo the right way. "We have some of the best grasslands in the world, a good supply of water, creative people.

Rebecca Seif puts it this way: "The bison is, especially to the plains people, the symbol of who they are. And bringing back the bison is a rejuvenation of native identity, native spiritualism, native economy, and native kinship. The bison represents the entire spectrum of the Lakota's life.

He measures the ITBC's success, however, within the context of Indian culture. "A few years ago, nobody was doing a buffalo dance in the Indian community," he says. "There were just a couple of songs. Our history is recorded in our song and dance. That's our reality, the oral history. That's the most compelling evidence that it's coming back."


This is a great example of a culturally appropriate solution arrived at from within the Native culture - very creative!
Location: South Dakota, US
Action: Restoration, Economic/Business
Setting: Developed World
Extent of Action: Local
Issues: Indigenous, Agriculture
Year(s): 1991
Outcome successful
Source: July/August 2002 - HOPE p. 18


Prepared By: dp, 06/03
Rating: 1
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