Denver, CO

Denver Donates Bison to Tribal Nations

Synthia Stark

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Back in the 1800s, bison were nearly driven to great extinction by those who were colonists. In 2021, the American Bison is slowly making its comeback through dedicated and active conservation efforts.

Recently, a conservation project occurred from the Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR), which is located in Denver, Colorado. The goal of DPR is to restore bison populations and also offer reparations to those Native American Tribes greatly affected by the bison decline across the centuries.

Basically, Denver established a 10-year ordinance just to donate and gift surplus bison from their conservation herd sites towards various Native American Tribes throughout America, particularly those areas where they are looking for population enhancers and boosters.

I mean, this is wildlife we are talking about here and wildlife can be sacred for many people, as well as a means for respecting the world we live in.

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This initiative from DPR is the result of hard work and it took well over 10 years of trust-building and talks with various tribal partners that have yielded some great results. The first batch of bison is on the way from Denver, Colorado, all the way to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes who are in Oklahoma and even the Tall Bull Memorial Council in Colorado.

Specifically, in Oklahoma, there were 13 female bison sent, while 1 lone female sent to the Tall Bull Memorial Council. This bison will join the herd of 530 at the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. The DPR’s deputy executive director, Scott Gilmore, also reported that at least half of the bison was pregnant, meaning that more bison can flourish.

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Most of these bison herds were descended from a small batch of Yellowstone bison, and generally speaking, auctioning efforts can help keep the grazing practices in check. In March 2021, there was still a surplus even after the auction.

Doing multiple auctions probably wouldn’t be in a good taste, so it’s great that it got all worked out in the end — collaborative efforts to support bison through partnerships with local Native American communities are always great.

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Of course — reparations will not take back the tragedies surrounding bison all those centuries ago. For many generations, well over 30 million bison were harmed for sport and often affected the local Native American communities that surrounded those areas.

For example, even Denver, Colorado played a big part in selling bison, but by gifting bison to various groups, perhaps there is progress to be made. For now, this initiative seems to fall under a 10-year order — and any part of the country is fair game.

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It’s great that even in modern times, newer generations of people want to make the most out of tragedy, using this initiative as a token of appreciation and as an apology for the previous generations. Perhaps many will see this gesture, as a sign of respect and collaboration, especially in the years to come.

Even Mayor Michael Hancock, of Denver, Colorado, had this to say:

 “I don’t think it’s ever too late to acknowledge the challenges and the wrongs of the past.”

Meanwhile, Nathan Hart, the executive director and overseer at the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ business department reportedly said: 

“Everybody’s really excited to grow the herd with this addition. The bison was very significant to our well-being in the past…. we still have a lot of respect for the animal.”

Nathan Hart also reportedly said:

“It [this initiative] just demonstrates the resiliency of both the American Indian and the bison animal itself.

It’s great to think that efforts done right here in Denver, Colorado, are helping other communities across America. Perhaps across successive generations, the program will prove to be wonderful and amazing. If anything, our children deserve the best planet with the best resources and the best animals.

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