The plains Bison once numbered at least 30 million. Widespread slaughter pushed this species to the brink of extinction. After 125 years of their absence on this landscape they are being reintroduced and actively managed on their homeland in Blackfeet Nation. They reside in fenced areas and have just been moved to their late summer pasture on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
“The buffalo are the best stewards of the land. They belong here just like we do.” -Ervin Carlson
This week we begin our visit with the Blackfeet Tribe in Northern Montana whose reservation spans 1.5 million acres but before European settlement that area was closer to 28 million acres. Ervin Carlson is a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. He is the Director of the Blackfeet Buffalo Program and President of the ITBC (Intertribal Buffalo Council).
He manages the existing Blackfeet buffalo herd used for cultural purposes and for food for those in need on the Reservation: We will be visiting with different members of Blackfeet who work with and have built relationships with the buffalo herd and how their management relates to the health of the people and ecosystem.
“The buffalo don’t just bring healing back to the land, it’s also healing for the tribe. They provide spiritual and cultural ecosystem services that are essential for maintaining the tribes identity”.
When the Bison or Iinni are moved between pastures on the Blackfeet Nation the 600 head herd gallops together into a small stampede whose sight and sound gives a taste of what the North American plains once were. This is a screen grab from some epic drone footage we got following the herd!
Our last night in Montana we got one last visit with the Blackfeet Tribe’s Bison grazing across the sunset with the Rockies behind them. After an amazing two weeks with the Blackfeet tribe learning about their bison or Iinni restoration initiative we are sad to leave this incredible landscape. We plan to return in the late fall to document the harvest and youth education.