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Rounds, Heinrich Introduce Indian Buffalo Management Act

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WASHINGTON | U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) introduced the bipartisan Indian Buffalo Management Act, legislation to create a permanent buffalo program at the U.S. Department of the Interior and help promote and develop tribal capacity to manage buffalo.

“The American buffalo is a treasured animal and resource for Native American communities across the United States,” said Rounds. “The Indian Buffalo Management Act gives tribes the capacity to manage their buffalo populations, utilize the many benefits from buffalo and provide input into federal buffalo management policy. I am committed to helping tribes in South Dakota restore their historical and cultural ties to buffalo herds and make certain that this is a meaningful step for Native American communities.”

“The American buffalo, or bison, is central to the culture and history of many of our tribal nations, including a number in New Mexico,” said Heinrich. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Rounds to provide Tribal communities with access to additional resources and opportunities to manage these revered animals and restore their habitat.”

“The Indian Buffalo Management Act will restore the cultural, historical, spiritual and traditional connection between buffalo and tribal people; create employment and economic opportunities; and provide the Tribe with access to a traditional, healthy and self-sustaining food source,” said Clyde Estes, Chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. “We thank Senator Rounds for working with us and listening to our request of introducing this important legislation in the United States Senate.”

“Our goal has always been to expand our buffalo herd to produce one large enough to supplement our Food Distribution Program, to assist our elders when they need buffalo meats or parts for a ceremony and to work with our local schools to aid in the educational benefits of buffalo restoration,” said Mike Faith, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Vice Chairman of the InterTribal Buffalo Council. “We greatly appreciate the leadership of Senator Rounds and his colleagues in introducing this legislation that will help us reach those goals. As the Lakota Holy Man, John Fire Lame Deer once said, ‘The Buffalo gave us everything we needed.’ This legislation is therefore a very positive development.”

“Senators Rounds, Heinrich and the others who have stepped up to introduce this bill are to be commended,” said Ervin Carlson, President of the InterTribal Buffalo Council headquartered in Rapid City. “It is simply impossible to overstate both the importance of the buffalo to the Indian people and the damage that was done when the buffalo were nearly wiped out. By helping tribes reestablish buffalo herds on our reservation lands, the Congress will help us reconnect with a keystone of our historic culture as well as create jobs and an important source of protein that our people truly need.”

“For Indigenous peoples, the restoration of buffalo is as much about healing our people and reviving our culture as it is about healing the land,” said Jason Baldes, board member of the InterTribal Buffalo Council and Tribal buffalo program manager for the National Wildlife Federation. “The Indian Buffalo Management Act not only expands capacity and reaffirms Tribal sovereignty but ensures we can continue working with Tribal, federal and conservation partners to establish prolific populations of buffalo across the country.”

Maria Sam, the herd manager for the Picuris Pueblo of New Mexico said, “Recently, I was able to discuss the status of our buffalo herd with Senator Heinrich and I was so appreciative to hear his enthusiasm for assisting our Pueblo and others to grow our herds and provide an important cultural and dietary resource for our people and others throughout New Mexico. His interest in this legislation has been longstanding, and we look forward to this basic but important bill becoming law.”

Phillip Perez, Governor of the Pueblo of Nambe said, “We are delighted that Senators Heinrich and Lujan will be joining Senator Rounds and others in introducing this legislation. Our buffalo herd is very small as is the land we have been able to set aside for it. When implemented, this bill could allow us to allocate more land so our buffalo could really stretch their legs and we could grow the herd. Being able to distribute more buffalo meat to our people would be wonderful.”

Cosponsors of the bill include Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).

The Indian Buffalo Management Act provides secure, consistent funding for tribes and tribal organizations that have an established buffalo herd and management program, as well as provides the opportunity to expand the program to other interested tribes. The American buffalo is also referred to as bison.

Rounds’ bill creates a permanent buffalo restoration and management program within the Department of Interior to:

• Promote and develop the capacity of tribes and tribal organizations to manage buffalo and buffalo habitat.

• Protect and enhance buffalo herds for the maximum benefit of tribes.

• Include tribes in the Interior Department’s decision-making regarding buffalo.

The Indian Buffalo Management Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) earlier this year.

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