Bison Return to Native American Land in Wyoming, Montana

Jul 17, 2023

For a long, long time, the American bison roamed the prairies and mountain ranges of the central US. There were millions of them. Then, the bison was hunted way too much. It almost went extinct. That was done by American colonizers. By the end of the 1800s, just 300 bison were left alive in the wild.    

Now, the bison have been returned to their homeland. It's on the former tribal lands of the Amskapi Pikuni. This tribe is also known as Blackfeet Nation. The area includes parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Canada. The lands are managed by both the US and Canada.    

Native American tribes across the US and Canada have led bison restoration projects in recent years. In late June, 49 of the huge animals were placed near Wyoming’s Chief Mountain. That's inside Blackfeet Nation. Seventy more will join the herd by summer’s end. The area is not only a great place for bison to thrive. It's also a sacred place for Native people in both the US and Canada.   

“It just feels so good to finally see them here in this place they want to be,” Ervin Carlson told NatGeo magazine. He's the director of the Blackfeet Nation’s bison restoration program. 

Indeed, the Native Blackfeet people view the bison as a very special creature. It's called an “iinnii” in their language.

“Our people, the Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy) always believed the land we came from was a gift of the Creator, Ihtsi-pai-tapi-yopa,” Blackfeet member Lailani Upham wrote in NatGeo. “Our stories tell us that iinnii was created as a gift for our people as our life source. The iinnii were and still are our staff of life.”

Photo by Bryce Olson courtesy of Unsplash. 

Reflect: What factors can contribute to a species becoming endangered or almost extinct?

What is the main idea of the final paragraph? (Common Core RI.5.2; RI.6.2)
a. The Blackfeet Nation has worked with both the US and Canadian governments to restore the bison population.
b. The Blackfeet Nation’s bison program has successfully added 49 buffalos to lands in Wyoming.
c. The Native Blackfeet people see bison as a sacred gift from the Creator.
d. The bison is a species that almost went extinct.
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