Source: United States House of Representatives – Alaska Congressman Don Young
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Indian Buffalo Management Act, legislation introduced by Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM), was unanimously passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee. The American buffalo, a North American species of bison, once roamed freely across the United States, and served an important role for Native communities throughout North America. Historically, bison were a reliable source of food, shelter, clothing, and economic mobility for Indigenous peoples across the American west. The decimation of the American buffalo that began in the mid-19th century significantly impacted the Native communities that depended on these majestic creatures.
The Indian Buffalo Management Act establishes a program within the Department of the Interior to assist tribes and tribal organizations with the protection, conservation, and fostering of buffalo herds. This legislation is supported by the 68 tribes in 18 states that are the members of the InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC), the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the American Bison Society, the National Bison Association, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Wildlife Fund.
“For hundreds of years, the American buffalo was central to the culture, spiritual wellbeing, and livelihoods of our nation’s Indigenous peoples,” said Congressman Don Young, Vice-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. “The tragic decimation of these iconic animals remains one of the darkest chapters in America’s history, and we must be doing all that we can to reverse the damage done not only to the American buffalo, but to the way of life of Native peoples across our country. I am proud to have introduced the Indian Buffalo Management Act with my good friend, Congresswoman Deb Haaland, and I am grateful to my colleagues on the House Natural Resources Committee for supporting its passage today. This is a very good bill with broad support. Input and collaboration with Alaska Native and Indigenous organizations, in addition to countless tribes has been integral to our efforts to protect vital to Native cultural, spiritual, and subsistence traditions. I want to thank the InterTribal Buffalo Council, in particular, for their advocacy and hard work on the development of this legislation. This bill is an important step to restoring once-vibrant buffalo herds, and I will keep working with friends on both sides of the aisle to ensure its final passage on the House Floor.”
“Self-governance is key to protecting tribal sovereignty, but since the near extinction of buffalo due to mindless slaughter, Tribes have often been left out of reestablishing and managing their own buffalo herds. This bill will help reverse the decimation of the American Buffalo by establishing a program to assist Tribal nations and Native organizations with the protection, conservation, and fostering of their buffalo herds. It is my hope that this bipartisan bill will reverse the damage done to the American Buffalo and support Tribes across the country. I thank my Congressional Native American Caucus colleagues for moving this bill forward,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.
“The support of tribal herds restores the cultural, spiritual and traditional connection between buffalo and indigenous people, and it provides economic development opportunities and supplies a sustainable food source,” said Conrad Peterson, President of the Alutiiq Tribe of Old Harbor. “Food security is extremely concerning in our remote, rural village, especially during this world-wide pandemic. We are thankful for the support of Congressman Young to move this legislation forward to support all Tribes.”
“We have strived to establish a buffalo herd to provide for our people and community,” said Melissa Berns, Tribal Member and Herd Manager. “The Indian Buffalo Management Act (IMBA) is historic for Native Americans as it will support bringing back buffalo to Indian Country at the level it deserves. With the support of the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the IBMA will assist in supporting member tribes for the benefit of their people for many generations to come.”