Amazing Photos and Video of the Return of Wild Bison to Tribal Lands

More than a century after they disappeared, wild bison once again roam Montana’s Northern Great Plains. On March 19, 2012, more than 60 bison were loaded onto trucks near Yellowstone National Park and driven to Montana’s Fort Peck Reservation for release into the wild. National Wildlife Federation, in partnership with the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, spent decades working on an agreement with the state of Montana to make this happen. We envisioned a future when Yellowstone bison, the last genetically pure, free-roaming, wild bison population in the U.S., could provide animals to establish new herds across the West. That vision has now been fulfilled.

These photos and the video below capture the welcome home ceremony.

The Round Up

Herding bison bound for release at Fort Peck, MT
Bison bound for release at Fort Peck, MT are herded together.

“Tribal people have a deep historical, cultural, traditional and spiritual connection to bison that stretches back thousands of years. Yellowstone bison have a special status for us because they are the last wild, free-ranging herd with no cattle genes. The well-being of the bison and the tribes are intertwined.” ~ Mike Fox, Fort Belknap tribal council member

Driving the Bison Home

Drivers transport bison to Fort Peck, MT for release
Jim & Lexi Marsh prepare to drive one of the trailers with bison bound for Fort Peck, MT.

“Special thank you to all who worked to make this happen!! You did good!!!” ~ Comment from Linda S. on National Wildlife Federation’s Facebook wall

The Bison are Released

Bison released at Fort Peck, MT
Bison leaving the trailer at Fort Peck, MT.

“By restoring wild bison to tribal lands, we’re also restoring a landscape, a habitat, one that supports a plethora of wildlife. Simultaneously, we’re helping to re-establish Native peoples’ cultural and historic connections to wildlife and the land.” ~Garrit Voggesser, NWF’s National Director, Tribal Partnerships.

Bison released at Fort Peck, MT
Bison leaving the trailer at Fort Peck, MT.
“The thunder of bison on the move is a huge victory. After more than two decades of work, the National Wildlife Federation and our tribal partners are celebrating the return of an iconic wildlife species to the Great Plains. The return of these wild bison to tribal lands fills a big gap in the plains ecosystem and a longtime absence in Native American culture.” ~Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation president and CEO

Bison released at Fort Peck, MT
Bison being released at Fort Peck, MT.
“After seven years of fighting, it’s nice to see them home. We’ll be able to quell people’s fears about them getting out (of the fences). A year from now, people will look and say, `Yeah, it does work.'”-Robbie Magnan, Fort Peck’s Fish and Game Department Director

The Pipe Ceremony

Tribal drum ceremony at the Ft. Peck bison release
Tribal drum ceremony

“This means everything to us. We’ve been separated from these majestic animals and now they’re here. We’re the buffalo people, tatanka oyate. Without the bison, none of us would be here.” ~Stoney Anketell, a member of the Fort Peck tribal executive board

Video of the Bison Release:

[youtube width=”620″ height=”450″][/youtube]

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