Mysterious and Tragic Deaths of Quarantined Yellowstone Buffalo

Photo: Darrell Geist, BFC

Photo: Darrell Geist, BFC

FORT BELKNAP INDIAN RESERVATION — Nineteen buffalo that were transferred two years ago from Yellowstone National Park were discovered dead earlier this month.

The cause of death the buffalo is currently unknown, but the tissues of the bodies of the buffalo are being exampled to determine the cause of death.  Anthrax was suspected but has so far been ruled out. Fort Belknap is home to the Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) and Assiniboine (Nakoda) tribes, located in north-central Montana, land that was once teeming with buffalo.  Buffalo wallows and traces (trails) can still be found on this breathtakingly beautiful open prairie country, and you can feel their ghosts everywhere.

The buffalo were discovered dead in a reservation pasture halfway between Fort Belknap Agency and Hays.

The deaths of these buffalo have been a huge blow to the indigenous community. The buffalo that died were captured as wild calves from Yellowstone, torn from their families who were shipped to slaughter, forced to live in a domestication prison where they were abused by scientists, and then shipped like livestock to their human relatives that have so anxiously awaited their return to their shared landscape.

Those that died, and those still living have been forced by U.S. and Montana government regulation to live under quarantine conditions, fenced in on a 1,000 acre pasture. And they are now dying in that enclosure. The enclosure has been called a  “reservation within a reservation.”

The deaths of these buffalo are another glaring example of the profoundly negative consequences of quarantine.

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