Published September 23, 2015
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — The Cherokee Nation is growing its bison herd once again, receiving a semi-truckload of the culturally significant animals on tribal land on Thursday.
The Cherokee Nation acquired bison from the InterTribal Buffalo Council last year and, with calves, currently has a head of 68 bison on its ranch in Kenwood.
The ITBC recently awarded the Cherokee Nation another herd of up to 50 surplus bison that will travel 900 miles from the Badlands, South Dakota, to Oklahoma.
“The partnership with the InterTribal Buffalo Council is benefiting the Cherokee Nation and allowing the tribe to reconnect with an important part of our history,” said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. “These bison are a cultural asset for us. We have proven to be good wildlife managers and have grown our herd responsibly over the past year. Tribal citizens are proud we have pursued reintroducing these animals into the Cherokee Nation.”
The ITBC, headquartered in Rapid City, South Dakota, awards its member tribes surplus bison from national parks each year. The Badlands National Park has about 400 head of surplus bison every year.
Although bison are associated more with the Plains tribes, herds of bison ranged from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Coast, and Cherokees used bison as a vital food source.
Until last year, the Cherokee Nation had not raised bison at the tribe in 40 years but spent about two years working with the ITBC on grants and applications to reconnect with the animals.
The Cherokee Nation’s Natural Resources department manages 22,000 acres of tribally owned land in northeastern Oklahoma. The bison are kept on up to 1,000 acres in Kenwood.