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Representatives Young and Torres Introduce Legislation to Restore Buffalo Populations on Tribal Lands

Washington, D.C.   This week, Congressman Don Young (R-AK), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, and Congresswoman Norma Torres (D-CA) introduced the Indian Buffalo Management Act. The American buffalo, a North American species of bison, once roamed freely across the United States, and served an important role for Native communities throughout North America. Historically, bison were a reliable source of food, shelter, clothing, and economic mobility for Indigenous peoples across the American west. The decimation of the American buffalo that began in the mid-19th century significantly impacted the Native communities that depended on these majestic creatures. The Indian Buffalo Management Act establishes a program within the Department of the Interior to assist tribes and tribal organizations with the protection, conservation, and fostering of buffalo herds. This legislation is supported by the 74 tribes in 20 states that are the members of the InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC).

“For hundreds of years, the American buffalo was central to the culture, spiritual wellbeing, and livelihoods of our nation’s Indigenous peoples. It may surprise some, but Alaska is home to a thriving herd on Sitkalidak Island, managed by the Alutiiq people,” said Congressman Don Young. “The tragic decimation of these iconic animals remains one of the darkest chapters in America’s history, and we must be doing all that we can to reverse the damage done not only to the American buffalo, but to the way of life of Native peoples across our country. I am proud to be joined by Congresswoman Norma Torres, in addition to advocates and tribal organizations as we introduce this critical legislation to protect a resource vital to Native cultural, spiritual, and subsistence traditions. I would like to thank the InterTribal Buffalo Council for their advocacy and hard work as we drafted this legislation. This bill is an important step toward restoring once-vibrant buffalo herds, and as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples, I will keep working with friends on both sides of the aisle to see this legislation across the finish line.”

“For many native tribes, buffalo are more than majestic animals – they’re integral to tribal history, culture and spiritual beliefs,” Congresswoman Norma J. Torres said. “Establishing tribal ownership and management of buffalo will increase their dwindling numbers across the American West and rekindle the longstanding connection native peoples share with them. I’m happy to work with Representative Young on this bipartisan effort and encourage our colleagues to join us in supporting the Indian Buffalo Management Act.”

“This bill would uplift the sovereignty of the 8 Pueblos in New Mexico that are members of the InterTribal Buffalo Council. It will promote tribal ownership and stewardship of buffalo and buffalo habitat. As the Chair of the Indigenous Peoples Subcommittee, I'm dedicated to supporting Tribes, Pueblos, and Nations across the country and remain committed to fostering their deep and unique connection with American Buffalo. I'm thankful for Congressman Young, Congresswoman Torres, and the rest of our partners for leading this bill,” said Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández.

Ervin Carlson, the President of the InterTribal Buffalo Council, said, “On behalf of our 74 member tribes in 20, states, we express our great appreciation to Congressman Don Young, Congresswoman Norma Torres and the other original co-sponsors of this important bill.  Since time immemorial, buffalo were key to the survival of millions of Indian people throughout much of this country.  This bi-partisan bill is a great step forward in helping tribes restore the herds that were decimated in the 19th Century through reckless overhunting by non-Indians, sometimes to deliberately starve the Indian people out of existence. The reestablishment of buffalo herds on Indian reservations will benefit tribes in different ways, from cultural to economic to helping with food security. We hope many members of Congress will support this non-controversial bill and help get it enacted this year.”

Carl Marrs, CEO of the Old Harbor Native Corporation stated, “We are thankful for Congressman Young’s leadership with the Indian Buffalo Management Act, a bipartisan bill which will elevate food sovereignty in Native Communities across our great Nation. Through collaboration between the Tribe and Village Corporation, Old Harbor has been making progress towards improving the health and wellbeing of our native village.”

Alfred Cratty, Jr., Tribal President of the Alutiiq Tribe of Old Harbor stated, “We are sincerely thankful for the persistence of Congressman Young and his support for bison herds on Tribal lands. Quyanaasinaq (huge thank you in Alutiiq) to Congressman Don Young and Congresswomen Norma Torres for introducing the Indian Buffalo Management Act. This legislation will assist with the restoration of Tribal buffalo herds and enable Tribal people to exercise their inherited right to access a traditional, healthy, and self-sustaining food source, as well as providing economic opportunities into the future.”

Ray Alvarez, of the Pit River Tribes of California said, “We applaud Congressman Don Young and California’s Representatives Norma Torres and Doug LaMalfa for taking the lead on the introduction of the Indian Buffalo Management Act. The IBMA will solidify the government-to-government relationship with Indian tribes for buffalo restoration—which is a significant step in reversing the trauma that near eradication of the species caused to tribal populations. The InterTribal Buffalo Council and its members tribes such as Pit River have worked to this momentous day for nearly 30 years. Passage of this important legislation will enable tribes to rekindle the cultural and spiritual relationship between tribes and buffalo, improve economic development on Indian lands, and promote indigenous food sovereignty.”

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