Restoring Bison to Tribal Lands

For more than two decades, the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Program has worked with tribes to bring wild bison back to their lands and cultures and restore this iconic American species to its rightful home on the prairies.

Boy-zshan Bi-den (Buffalo Return)

In November 2016, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the National Wildlife Federation welcomed buffalo back to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming after an absence of over 130 years.

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Our Vision - Over 1,000 buffalo on hundreds of thousands of acres on the Wind River Reservation.

Our Plan - and how you can help make it happen.

To learn more, contact the National Wildlife Federation's Tribal Program.

Bison's return to Montana Tribal Lands

In 2012, the Fort Peck Tribes, the National Wildlife Federation, and conservation partners succeeded in convincing the state of Montana to transfer more than 60 bison back to tribal lands. On March 19. 2012, after more than a century away, wild bison were returned to roam the Great Plains in Montana.

In November 2014, we took another significant stride by restoring an additional 134 Yellowstone bison to the Fort Peck Reservation.

 Bison calf photo by Alexis Bonogofsky

  • A Shared Vision

    Tribal people have a deep historical, cultural, traditional, and spiritual connection to bison that stretches back thousands of years. The National Wildlife Federation and the Tribes share a common vision of establishing herds of genetically pure wild bison across the West and restoring Native Americans' cultural connection to bison. And you can help make that vision a reality.

    Help National Wildlife Federation continue to protect Yellowstone’s historic bison herds >>

National Wildlife Federation's Work Protecting Wild Bison and Tribal Culture

In 1997, the National Wildlife Federation signed a memorandum of understanding with the Intertribal Bison Cooperative, the first ever conservation agreement between an environmental organization and an inter-tribal group, to advocate for the return of wild bison to Tribal lands. 

The political opposition to the return of the bison seemed insurmountable, as bison were seen as a threat to domestic livestock. Overcoming these challenges is a significant conservation milestone and opens the door to moving wild bison onto other large landscapes.

By bringing bison back to these reservations, we are revitalizing a landscape, habitat, and a diversity of wildlife, while also re-establishing Native Americans’ cultural and historic connections to wildlife and the land.

Bison released at Fort Peck, MT

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"The buffalo has always held great meaning for American Indian people...buffalo represent their spirit and remind them of how their lives were once lived, free and in harmony with nature."
    -InterTribal Buffalo Council


Voices for Tribal Bison

NWF's Garrit Voggesser talks about the disappearance of bison from tribal lands

Assiniboine Cultural Leader Larry Wetsit talks about the importance of bison to tribes

Steve Torbit talks about how the return of bison could impact the ecosystem