Rosebud Sioux Tribe Welcome First Bison Home to Wolakota Buffalo Range

Nov 2, 2020 2:00 PM ET

On October 30, 2020, Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO), with support from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Rosebud Tribal Land Enterprise (TLE) proudly announce the inaugural transfer and release of 100 plains bison (buffalo) from the National Park Service to the Wolakota Buffalo Range on the land of the Sicangu Oyate, commonly known as the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

The animals were transferred from Badlands National Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park and will make up the first of, as many as, 1,500 bison to be welcomed home to Rosebud’s newly established Wolakota Buffalo Range. This 27,680 acre area of native grassland, when at capacity, will become North America’s largest Native American owned and managed bison herd. In the midst of a global pandemic and social unrest, the Sicangu Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) are revitalizing their relationship with bison to demonstrate the potential this creates for economic, ecological, and cultural resiliency.

“The sacred relationship between Native nation communities and the buffalo nation is part of a shared story of strength, resilience and economic revitalization,” said Wizipan Little Elk, CEO, REDCO. “The arrival of the buffalo marks a new beginning for the Sicangu Oyate, where cultural, ecological and economic priorities are equally celebrated and supported and are of great benefit to our community and serve as an example for the entire world.”

The arrival of the animals to the Wolakota Buffalo Range was supported by the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) 2020 Bison Conservation Initiative, a 10-year plan announced in May to expand bison conservation efforts. Additional bison will be delivered over the next five years from herds managed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, helping further DOI’s commitment to support the restoration of bison and federal trust responsibility to Native nations.

“The National Park Service is honored to be a partner to ecological and cultural restoration of bison to Native American people,” said Margaret Everson, Counselor to the Secretary, exercising the delegated authority of the National Park Service Director. “We are part of the DOI effort to conserve wild, healthy herds of bison which requires our best scientific work within DOI, and diverse partnerships of public agencies, private partners, and native nations. DOI’s partnership in today’s establishment of the Wolakota Buffalo Range represents real progress in that direction. This herd will also support economic development, job creation, education, and food sovereignty for the Rosebud Sioux Nation.”

The resilient plains bison have returned from near extinction in the beginning of 20th century to their native lands— Native nation, privately, and publicly owned—through concerted efforts by Native communities, private individuals, government leadership and NGOs. Among these efforts, WWF has committed to supporting the establishment of five herds of at least 1,000 individuals each in the Northern Great Plains to increase the genetic health of this species. Today’s transfer of bison highlights the importance of partnerships and contributes to a roadmap for successful Native nations restoration efforts across the United States.

Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF said, "Today marks a long overdue homecoming for these iconic animals. And it represents a reunion with the communities who lived with them for millennia in a symbiotic relationship – and who can now do so again. WWF was honored to partner with the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Department of the Interior to help make this day possible."

Restoration efforts at scale are essential to ensuring bison survive and thrive. The arrival of the bison at the Wolakota Buffalo Ranch is a step forward toward reconnecting bison to the land and the people of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate. Visit to learn more.