LaMalfa introduces the Indian Buffalo Management Act

Congressman Doug LaMalfa introduced the Indian Buffalo Management Act. This legislation establishes a permanent program within the Department of the Interior to develop and promote tribal ownership and management of buffalo and buffalo habitat on Tribal lands.

LaMalfa was joined by representives Mary Peltola, Tom Cole, Norma Torres, and Jay Obernolte in introduction. This legislation is endorsed by the InterTribal Buffalo Council and World Wildlife Fund.

“This bill will help bolster tribal sovereignty, create economic opportunities, and ensure a stable supply of nutritious, locally sourced protein,” LaMalfa said. “Additionally, the American Buffalo has a deep, historical and cultural connection to many tribes, and this program will greatly help with the InterTribal Buffalo Council’s goal of restoring buffalo herds on Indian reservation lands.”

“This is a pivotal moment for Indigenous people and a true testament to the hard work and determination of countless Native advocates. For hundreds of years, the American buffalo was central to the culture, spiritual wellbeing, and livelihoods of our nation’s Indigenous peoples,” said Peltola. “Alaska proudly hosts a thriving buffalo herd on Sitkalidak Island, managed by the Alutiiq people. The ruthless decimation of buffalo herds that occurred in the mid-19th century dealt a devasting blow to Native communities that have long relied on these animals. We must reverse the damage done to the American buffalo and to the ways of life of Native peoples across our country. This bill is an important step toward restoring once-flourishing buffalo herds, which have been vital to the cultural, spiritual, and subsistence traditions of Native Americans throughout many states. I now call on my colleagues to help us get this vital bill across the finish line.”

“For centuries, the American Buffalo have sustained the livelihoods of tribes by providing necessary food, clothing, tools and so much more,” said Cole, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus and Member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. “Before their systematic devastation, more than 60 million of these species roamed freely across the Great Plains. It is critical that we restore these herds to their tribes for cultural, spiritual and nutritional purposes, and I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation which would establish a program within the Department of the Interior to work with tribes and tribal organizations to do just that.”

“The American Buffalo is vital to Indigenous communities – from their history to culture to spiritual beliefs to economic mobility,” Torres said. “The bipartisan Indian Buffalo Management Act – which I was proud to pass in the House in the 117th Congress with my late friend Don Young – is an important step toward restoring once vibrant buffalo herds. By establishing a federal program to support tribes in the conservation of buffalo, we can give back ownership to Indigenous peoples of this crucial aspect of their lives and culture. I thank representatives LaMalfa, Peltola, Cole and Obernolte for working with me to reintroduce this bill, and look forward to getting it to the President’s desk this Congress.”

“For many native tribes, the American Buffalo represents an integral part of their tribal history,” said Obernolte. “I am proud to be a part of this important legislation that will continue to strengthen the government-to-government relationships we have with our tribes while also protecting their indigenous heritage.”

“World Wildlife Fund strongly supports the Indian Buffalo Management Act, which would create a permanent program within the Department of the Interior to support tribal-led bison restoration efforts and the strongest possible government-to-government relationships with tribes,” said Martha Kauffman, vice president, Northern Great Plains Ecoregion, World Wildlife Fund. “WWF is a proud ally in these efforts to restore bison to grasslands in the United States, guided and informed by the leadership of Native Nations. All of us stand to benefit from the return of this critically important and iconic American species.”

“I want to truly commend representatives LaMalfa, Peltola and others in the House for introducing this legislation,” said Ervin Carlson (Blackfeet), President of the InterTribal Buffalo Council, representing 83 tribes in 21 states. “It is simply impossible to overstate both the importance of the buffalo to the Indian people and the damage that was done when the buffalo were nearly wiped out in the late 1800s. By helping tribes reestablish buffalo herds on our reservation lands, the Congress will help us reconnect with a keystone of our historic culture as well as create jobs and an important source of protein that our people truly need. As this legislation moves forward, we must also remember our dear friend, the late Congressman Don Young of Alaska who first proposed this important bill.”

“We are very pleased to see that Congressman Doug LaMalfa has introduced the Indian Buffalo Management Act this year,” said Pit River tribal chairman Yatch Bamford. “Not only are buffalo culturally important to our people but we will also gain by having access to buffalo meat. We have set aside 130 acres of land on our reservation and presently have a small herd of buffalo. If this legislation were to become law and be funded, we would hope secure funds for infrastructure needs such as fencing, a handling system and a hay barn so as to increase our herd size. We have been able to provide buffalo meat at membership meetings and cultural events and even donated buffalo meat to neighboring tribes. The enactment of this bill will allow us to expand and serve more folks and create an opportunity for our youth to more fully understand our history with this great animal.”

Germain Ruvalcaba, Chairman of the Fort Bidwell Indian Community Council of the Gidutikad Band of Northern Paiutes, said, “We are very pleased to have our Congressman, Doug LaMalfa, introduce the Indian Buffalo Management Act. Our lands are rurally isolated in far northeastern California and opportunities for economic development are limited.  It would mean a great deal to our people to be able to establish a buffalo herd. Not only would it be important culturally, but we would hope to eventually have a herd that would become self-sustaining enough to also provide an important source of protein, as the closest grocery store is many miles away.”

Specifically, this bill authorizes buffalo restoration and management program within the Interior Department to:

  • Promote and develop the capacity of Indian tribes and tribal organizations to manage buffalo and buffalo habitat.
  • Protect and enhance buffalo herds for the maximum benefit of tribes.

Allows the secretary to enter into contracts or agreements, or to award grants to tribes or eligible entities to:

  • Create or maintain a buffalo restoration or management program.
  • Plan and execute commercial activities for buffalo or buffalo products.
  • Requires the secretary to consult and coordinate with their policies relating to buffalo and buffalo habitat management with tribes and tribal organizations.
  • Provides tribes continued access to surplus buffalo from federal lands, helping entities like National Parks keep their buffalo populations within the carrying capacity of the park’s lands while requiring compliance with federal or state law (including regulations) regarding diseased buffalo or buffalo that escape from Indian land.
  • Protects tribal treaty rights.