Buffalo being returned to Montana tribes
"It's the beginning of a whole new chapter for the bison and for us. It brings us right back to where we were,"
- obert Magnan, head of Fort Peck's fish and game department
For the first time in nearly 140 years, the Indian tribes of northeastern Montana are preparing for the return of wild buffalo that are descended from herds that once thundered across the vast American West.
On Monday, Montana wildlife officials plan to inspect 5,000 acres at Fort Peck that have been readied for the arrival of the native buffalo, which for centuries provided food, clothing and spiritual sustenance to American Indians.
The inspection marks a milestone in a years-long plan by federal, state and tribal managers of Yellowstone bison to give Native Americans in Montana custody of an assortment of bulls, cows and calves to cultivate new herds on tribal lands.
For American Indians, whose fortunes in the 19th century declined with eradication of the herds they depended on, the buffalo's return symbolizes fresh hope for an ancient culture.