By BRIAN BRUS
The Journal Record
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) _ The Cherokee Nation wants to build a new bison herd to recapture some of the tribe’s heritage, develop business opportunities and provide a healthy food source for its members, Principal Chief Bill John Baker said.
The tribal council recently approved a resolution to request surplus bison from South Dakota through the InterTribal Buffalo Council. The Cherokee Nation is also maintaining its candidacy to receive bison from a similar program through Yellowstone National Park, The Journal Record reported (http://bit.ly/1zA4Vqr ).
If approved, the tribe could receive 35 to 50 head of bison this fall to place on tribal land in Delaware County, Baker said. About 1,000 acres have already been identified for that use.
“In ancient times, buffalo was a mainstay of the Cherokee back in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina,” he said. “It’s just one more thing to keep our culture and heritage and history alive and well, not only for our people, but also tourism in general.”
The InterTribal Buffalo Council has a membership of 56 tribes across nine states and a collective herd of more than 15,000 bison. Other active tribes in Oklahoma include the Modoc, Iowa and Cheyenne-Arapaho.
According to the group’s website, re-establishing bison herds on American Indian land promotes cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization, ecological restoration and economic development.
Baker said the council’s quality controls make the contribution even more attractive because the animals will be disease-free and healthy, cutting down on initial investment costs.
The Cherokee Tribal Council also authorized the tribe to receive 1,000 pounds of bison meat from the InterTribal Buffalo Council, which would be served at Cherokee Nation community events.
Baker said that by the terms of the ITBC agreement, the gifted bison cannot be slaughtered; they will be used to produce calves to grow the herd as the tribe sees fit. That meat will likely be distributed through the tribe’s program to help low-income members.
The tribe had a bison herd many years ago, but members were not prepared then to take care of it, Baker said. He expects that tribal members will probably begin ranching bison on their own.
The bison resolution was part of the tribe’s annual operating budget-setting process. The Cherokee Nation increased its 2014 fiscal year budget to $613.7 million, adding $4.6 million to challenges such as rising health costs and emergency housing needs.
Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com