Tribe votes against bison importation
Wind River Indian Reservation – In 1990 the InterTribal Bison Cooperative was formed to coordinate and assist tribes with the return of bison to Indian country.
The Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation has been a part of that effort and this spring held public meetings and created a plan to bring Yellowstone bison to a part of the reservation from an area in Montana where they’ve been quarantined for several years and tested multiple times for brucellosis.
The ITBC now has a membership of 57 tribes, with a collective herd of over 15,000 bison.
In a recent General Council meeting of the Northern Arapaho, however, Ken Trosper, who’s worked closely with the issue, says the tribe ultimately voted against bringing bison onto their Arapaho Ranch land.
“The tribe wasn’t presented facts regarding brucellosis transmission, and that’s why the effort was voted down,” says Trosper. “They were being told our ranch would have to kill all its cows if we brought bison onto the reservation because of brucellosis, which isn’t true at all.”
“I don’t know how we’re going to move forward from here, but we’re going to do something,” he explains. “There’s a lot of contention right now among the people because of the way the resolution was presented in the Council. They didn’t understand it.”
Trosper says the resolution’s wording wasn’t very clear, and many people thought they were voting for the bison when, in fact, they voted against.
Work had already begun on fencing for a 650-acre pasture within the larger area, which runs along the west side of Wind River Canyon, designated for use by the bison.
Trosper says the tribe generally holds three General Councils each year, and he says the bison issue is ongoing. He hopes to bring the issue back to one of the two remaining Councils.
“The resolution that failed only pertained to ranch property, so that doesn’t exclude the rest of the reservation,” he explains.
Of maintaining their hold on the Yellowstone bison currently available, he says they can only be held for so long before they’re available to any federal or public agency.
“What’s sad about it is we went through all the hoops and won the bison, but we lost the chance because some guys that didn’t know the facts about brucellosis were saying things like cattle could pick up the disease from bison manure,” says Trosper, adding that none of those who protested the idea in General Council had been present at any of the planning meetings.
By not voting to bring bison back to the Northern Arapaho Tribe, Trosper says, “We’re turning our back on thousands of years of culture, and a lifestyle built on bison.”
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.