For the first time in 130 years, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe welcomed a newborn baby bison on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.
The cute calf with high spiritual importance to the Eastern Shoshone was nearly eradicated by white settlers in the 19th century—so this spring birth marks a new approach and celebration of restorative justice.
Jason Baldes the Director of the Wind River Advocacy Center and Buffalo Representative of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. For the last year, he’s been working to set precedent for what tribal bison restoration can be on tribal lands.
“There’s lots of tribes that are working on this as a way to preserve the species but also reconnect to a cultural icon that was incredibly important to plains Indian people for millennia," said Baldes. "So reconnecting buffalo and tribal communities is kind of a new approach to restorative justice.”
Last fall, the Eastern Shoshone received ten genetically pure and certified disease-free buffalo from the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Partnership Program, in conjunction with Fish, Wildlife And Parks. This is the first buffalo calf born among the bunch.
“Our ceremonial way of life is centered around this gift from the Creator. And we pray with this animal. And that’s a deep, deep connection that has never gone away,” said Baldes.
Baldes points out that Buffalo conservation and management is a contentious issue that people are apprehensive about. But he says that his tribe has revered this ungulate through millennia. And there’s a connection to this critter in another way, too.
“What happened to Native people similarly happened to buffalo and we’re now isolated on former pockets of our once vast territories, you know, Indians on reservations and buffalo on national parks and refuges. And we’re kinda in a time now where we can handle that different,” said Baldes.
The birth of the baby buffalo sets the stage for what Baldes described as the 20-year plan for expanding the buffalo restoration program on tribal lands.