Hello Wild Buffalo Supporters,

It’s Native American Awareness Month, and I hope this edition of On the Buffalo Trail finds you well. With this month’s celebration of tribal culture and history, I’m excited to share with you my takeaways from the Tribal Buffalo Summit we hosted on National Bison Day.

bfc tribal buffalo summit paula lee juan arvol james

With the support of the Shoshone Bannock Hotel & Casino event staff, the Summit was a huge success. Eleven tribes were in attendance with almost all of the regional tribes with reservations adjacent to the Yellowstone National Park being present. Day One of the Summit corresponded with National Bison Day and was opened by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe and a spiritual leader for the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Oyate. The Summit was a gathering of spiritual leaders, tribal councilmembers, historians, and experts, coming together to honor and celebrate a living relationship with Buffalo.

During the Summit, the Campaign was honored to provide a background of our history and principles founded in indigenous leadership. This includes our diverse suite of programs and pro-active solutions, guided by the values instilled by our co-founder and Lakota elder, the late Rosalie Little Thunder. Board Member Dallas Gudgell, a tribal member from the Ft. Peck Reservation, and myself, an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe, contribute our cultural knowledge and indigenous worldviews in support of BFC’s mission: to stop the harassment and slaughter of Yellowstone’s wild buffalo herds, protect their natural habitat, and work with all people, especially Indigenous Nations, to honor and respect the sacredness of the wild buffalo. The Summit was the Campaign’s opportunity to listen to the assembled tribal leaders, and affirm our support for tribal sovereignty and cultural lifeways.

bfc tribal buffalo summit leroy steward

Leroy Stewart, Bison Project Director, Crow Tribe

Wild buffalo are not only a cultural, spiritual, and subsistence source; they are also a keystone species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). Sacred tenets are being fulfilled by speaking for wild Yellowstone buffalo persistence into an uncertain future. As a keystone species, buffalo must be allowed to build resilience into the ecosystem for other species such as grasses, animals, birds, and our own future generations. Already, our children and grandchildren face the growing impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather events, animal sickness and disease, and human-caused habitat degradation. We are in the Sixth Mass Extinction Event , driven by human expansion. The GYE, in particular, is slowly deteriorating due to continued habitat destruction. Our unborn generations will need the resilience provided by healthy, large intact landscapes that we must nurture and protect today. It is critical that buffalo are present to steward the entire GYE, one of the few intact large landscapes left in America. Tribal attendees of the Summit voiced their unanimous support for wild, free-roaming buffalo throughout the entirety of this incomparable ecosystem.

It was not lost on me that the tribes in attendance, who call the GYE home, staunchly support free-roaming buffalo. The Summit attendees were also unified in clearly stating that individual tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, and cultural lifeways must not be obstructed or hindered. Holistic solutions and federal management actions must be tailored to reflect individual tribal priorities and account for a multi-species benefit, speaking for buffalo, grizzlies, lynx, and wolves. The steady decline in ecosystem health of the GYE and the ongoing forced removal of buffalo, grizzlies, and the killing of wolves, is contrary to the trust responsibility, building ecosystem resilience, and protecting what is left for the future. I am humbled that so many tribes have honored us with their presence at the Summit, and with official responses to our invitation. There’s a lot of work to do and the Campaign is very appreciative of the opportunity to support tribes, and having common ground in demanding free-roaming buffalo in the GYE.

bfc tribal buffalo summit group photo

Buffalo Field Campaign cannot do any of our vital work without your generous support. Your monetary donations support our Tribal Outreach Program, Field Season, local and regional coalition-building for a wildlife crossing, and our ongoing pursuit of accountability from the federal agencies who are failing buffalo and the GYE.

In light of our recent accomplishments and future goals, hold fast to continue helping us make a difference. Donate to the Campaign to ensure we magnify the voices of all Americans, including tribal sovereigns. We demand wild, free-roaming buffalo with a holistic approach that manages buffalo like elk, honors tribes, involves our local communities, and improves the transportation infrastructure for safe wildlife crossing. Qeciyewyew (thank you) for your enduring support.

For Qolqalx (Buffalo),
James Holt, Sr.

“Every wild buffalo calf born in the Yellowstone Ecosystem is a victory for the Campaign.” - James Holt Sr., Nez Perce