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How A Dream To Bring Back Wild Buffalo Is Slowly Decolonizing Tribal Land

Caption for Photo: Eastern Shoshone Tribe Buffalo Manager Jason Baldes checks the herd at the Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative in the heart of the Wind River Indian Reservation on Aug. 15, 2023. Currently, the project has about 163 Buffalo. When asked how much land they would like to acquire for the Buffalo, Baldes replied, “As much as we can get.” Photo by Sofia Jaramillo for HuffPost

MARCH 24, 2024

Except from Article in HuffPost

By Roque Planas, HuffPost

A legacy of land theft thwarts most Tribes’ efforts to restore wild Buffalo. Wind River Indian Reservation has crafted a unique solution.

WIND RIVER INDIAN RESERVATION — On a sunny August day, Jason Baldes drove a mud-caked quad with a drink holder overflowing with matted buffalo fur toward the wild herd he has overseen since 2016. The day before, the Eastern Shoshone had killed one of the bulls, and the smell of warm blood and fresh meat still hung in the air. As we bounced over dirt clods, we passed the esophagus and pair of lungs that Baldes had left as a gift to the coyotes.

Every harvest from the growing herd marks a major victory for the Eastern Shoshone, whose untranslated name, Gweechoondeka, literally means “buffalo eaters.” But this one was special. For the first time in 139 years, the annual sun dance ceremony, a multiday ritual, would include buffalo meat — a key ingredient that had gone missing since European settlers all but wiped the animals off the map in the late 19th century.

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