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Update: Tribal Buffalo Herd on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

All of the Slim Buttes Buffalo, with the exception of 15 head have been transferred successfully to the Yellow Bear/Allen Pastures. Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority (OSPRA) is very fortunate to have another pasture that has enough forage for all of the Buffalo and elk. We estimate that we will have enough forage to get the buffalo through to the growing season.

 

OSPRA conducted an annual round up to tag, count and conduct health inspections of the buffalo herd. This was an intense process. The Slim Buttes buffalo were unfamiliar with this pasture and the corral system. With many individuals riding horses and four wheelers we estimate that we got about half of the herd in. At this point OSPRA is not sure of the count or the exact number of buffalo. As many individuals find out working and managing buffalo is very different from managing domesticated livestock.

After participating in the round up and experiencing the management style of the buffalo managers, the Senior Biologist, Ms. Trudy Ecoffey and I have undertaken the task of developing a buffalo management plan. Dr. Trudy Ecoffey has completed her doctorate dissertation on buffalo management and brings a wealth of knowledge to the plan.
In my observations there is a management style in place that works for a small herd of buffalo, but does not work with such a large herd as OSPRA has. We anticipate completing this buffalo management plan for the annual meeting schedule for later this month. We are hoping to have a better system that will meet the objectives in each of the four major categories that we have identified: Spiritual or Cultural, Educational, Economics, and Nutrition.

The OSPRA has been fortunate to receive a grant of $25,000 that allows the Biologist to study the grasses that return to the burned area. The Biology Division has established monitoring sites and will gather base line data that will be incorporated into the buffalo management plan. We will also be utilizing a percentage of this grant to develop a well within this pasture. We will not be placing buffalo back into this pasture until after November 2008. We are hoping that the forage has a significant recovery and that we will have found the dollars to replace the fence.

OSPRA is developing a curriculum and information for the tribal schools and headstarts. We wish to make a buffalo mascot and provide information and actual materials to the youth. The end goal is to try to bring our youth back into their natural environment to enjoy, learn and protect this valuable resource. Our Ranger Division wishes to make presentation to the kids across the reservation. We would also like to provide a hands on tour so that the children can visually see and experience the Buffalo in its natural environment.

OSPRA is currently selling calves, yearlings and two year olds. This is a management practice that will assist us in culling the herd to a manageable size for the amount of pasture that we have. We are hopeful that we will be getting an excellent price for them and that the Buffalo will be used for other herds. As we are happy to say our Buffalo do not have any bovine genes in them at all. They can be traced back to a surviving herd that was saved in the early 1900s. This is something to take pride in and to market.

Future plans: We are hoping to develop the first preservation unit on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It seems funny that there isn't a preservation site here, but we have identified the area, this area has actually been on the drawing board for many years. We are hoping that we can reestablish Buffalo, Wild horses, black footed ferrets, and other animals that we common to the prairie, but are very scarce. This will also be a strategy that we work on at the annual meeting. We would like to retail buffalo meat to members of the tribe. In an attempt to bring healthy, fresh meat to members of the Tribe we would like to invest in a small slaughter plant and be able to make readily available fresh meat. OSPRA would like to study, research, and consolidate historical cultural beliefs and practices on the buffalo and ultimately produce ground breaking data to other tribes and members wishing to raise buffalo.

In summary OSPRA is overwhelmed with the work that needs to be done and so few dollars and so few staff. We are diligently working with our goal in front of us and knowing that work we do now will only benefit our children and our grand children.

OSPRA would like to thank those of you who have contributed and are interested in all that we do:

WOPILA TANKA

Bizon This is a bull Buffalo that is trying to escape the flames of the Stampede fire, which was in the Slim Buttes Pasture. 07/09/07