Congressman Don Young Leads House Passage of Indian Buffalo Management Act
Washington, December 9, 2021
Washington, D.C. – Last night, Congressman Don Young (R-AK-AL), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States (SCIP), led House passage of the Indian Buffalo Management Act – legislation he authored to restore buffalo populations in Alaska Native and Native American communities. Upon the bill’s introduction in March, Congressman Young was joined by Congresswoman Norma Torres (D-CA-35) and his fellow SCIP Leader, Chairwoman Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM-03). In October, companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD).
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, and clothing 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, including 3 Alaska Native Villages, in 20 states that are the members of the InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC).
“This is a great accomplishment for Indigenous people, and a true testament to the hard work and determination of countless Native advocates. 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 very proud to have led passage of the Indian Buffalo Management Act through the House, and am grateful for the support of Congresswomen Norma Torres and Teresa Leger Fernández, in addition to advocates and tribal organizations. This bill is an important step toward restoring once-vibrant buffalo herds, which have historically been a resource vital to Native cultural, spiritual, and subsistence traditions. I now call on my friends on both sides of the aisle in the Senate to help us get this bill across the finish line and to the President’s desk.”
“For many native tribes, the American buffalo are more than majestic animals – they’re integral to tribal history, culture, and spiritual beliefs. Establishing tribal ownership and management of buffalo will help increase their numbers across the American West and rekindle the longstanding connection Indigenous Peoples share with them. I’m proud to advance this effort to give back ownership to Native Americans of this crucial aspect of their lives and culture,” added Congresswoman Norma Torres.
“Buffaloes (Bison) are integral to the cultures and the spiritual and culinary heritage of Native Americans from Alaska to New Mexico. Unfortunately, in the 19th century the great herds were intentionally killed off and those who relied upon these great animals suffered hunger and hardship. Tribes across the country, including in New Mexico, have reintroduced buffalo on their lands. This bill provides Tribes with the necessary federal resources to manage and protect these great animals and their habitat. I am grateful to Congressman Young for this bill, I was an original cosponsor and as Chair of the Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples to have helped move the bill through the House,” said Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández.
Alfred Cratty, Jr., Tribal President of the Alutiiq Tribe of Old Harbor stated, “Quyanaasinaq (thank you very much) to Congressman Don Young, Congresswoman Norma Torres and supporters of Indian Buffalo Management Act! We are thankful this legislation has been passed by the House, as it will allow for Tribal Nations to restore buffalo herds and provide for their communities. These sacred animals provide traditional, healthy and a sustainable food source as well as economic development opportunities.”
Carl Marrs, CEO of the Old Harbor Native Corporation stated, “We continue to be impressed with Congressman Don Young’s leadership, determination and ability to pass important legislation. We are grateful the Indian Buffalo Management Act has been passed by the House, as it will provide food sovereignty and economic development opportunities for Tribal communities across the Nation.”
Ervin Carlson, President of the InterTribal Buffalo Council said, “Today is a historic day for our Buffalo Nation. The ITBC and its members have been working for 30 years to assist tribes in returning buffalo to our lands and to our people. Historically, the buffalo provided everything that we needed and the demise of the buffalo herds in the 1800s had a devastating impact on the Indian people. We cannot thank Congressman Don Young enough for introducing this bill. He has shown tremendous leadership on this and other matters. We also appreciate Congresswomen Norma Torres, Teresa Leger Fernandez and the eleven other members, who, on a bi-partisan basis have cosponsored HR 2074. When passed by the Senate, enacted into law, and implemented, this legislation will benefit our people nutritionally, economically, and spiritually. I am so pleased that the House has seen fit to help protect and enhance this most important piece of our culture.”