Project to transfer hundreds of bison to Rosebud Indian Reservation

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Rosebud Indian Reservation is expecting hundreds of bison from a variety of places to be transferred to tribal land.

Twenty-eight thousand acres of land, formerly used for cattle, was leased out to the Wolakota Regenerative Buffalo Range project for a span of 15 years to have a total of 1,500 bison roam.

It costs more than a quarter of a million dollars per year to lease out the range, according to the project manager, Aaron Epps.

But he said they received a $1 million social impact starter loan to get the project started.

Now, they are working on attaining partnerships to help continue the project, with organizations like World Wildlife Fund already on board.

Currently, the first phase of the project is in motion where 18 miles of fencing is being installed. They are also determining the water accessibility for the herd.

The bison will be used to provide meat to institutions like schools and hospitals on the reservation.

But there is also a strong sacred and historical meaning behind the bison transfer for the Lakota people.

"As Lakota were living a nomadic lifestyle on the plains and kind of following the bison, they provided food, shelter, ceremonial and sacred objects. So to be able to return that to the people here at this type of scale is something that's truly historic," Epps said.

He said the plan is to bring in 300 to 400 bison per year in a span of five years to fill the range.

The first transfer of about 200 bison should be arriving in mid-October but Epps does not know at this time where the bison will be originating from. However, he said the bison will come from around the nation.

To learn more about the project that aims to be the world's largest Native-owned and managed buffalo herd you can visit the Wolakota buffalo range website.