Buffalo (the word Indigenous people traditionally use for bison) are returning home to their Native lands. We sit down with Wizipan Little Elk, CEO of the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation, who is leading the charge in establishing the largest Native-managed bison herd in the U.S.
The regenerative Wolakota Buffalo Range is located on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, where the Lakota tribe is in the midst of a five-year project to restore the animal back to their once heavily populated home.
“We have a long and proud history of being buffalo people, and we find ourselves today facing some very big social economic challenges, but by leaning into our traditions, we’re going to forage a new path forward that will create opportunity and prosperity not only for our people, but for the entire region,” Little Elk says.
The Lakota’s commitment to restoring bison to their lands has far-reaching effects, even combatting climate change.
With a spiritual and cultural connection to the animal, Little Elk is hoping to merge tradition with modern times as they renew their relationship with the Tatanke Oyate (Buffalo Nation).
Jimmy Doyle, range manager, says, “I think one of the really neat things about this project is that it’s so multifaceted, it really hits on a lot of different target areas for us, doing that in a matter that is restoring land health, improving the ecosystem and biodiversity, and also making sure the human aspect of that is also being addressed, especially from the cultural standpoint of the relationship between the buffalo and the tribe.”