DENVER — Thirty-five American bison are being returned to tribal nations across the country. Many tribes consider the animal sacred, but were stripped of their herds hundreds of years ago.
Of the 35 bison, 17 are being returned to the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming, 12 to the Eastern Shoshone in Wyoming and five to the Yuchi Tribe in Oklahoma. One additional bison will be given to the Tall Bull Memorial Council in Colorado.
The bison were raised as part of a conservation effort through Denver Mountain Parks. The herds are descendants from the last wild bison in North America, with two herds now located at Genesee Park.
The bison were presented to tribal nations as part of a ceremony Wednesday.
"We feel that important connection is being restored and it’s reconnecting us with the land, so it’s both a spiritual connection, but it’s also joyous and direct," said Dr. Richard Grounds, who drove from Oklahoma to represent the Yuchi Nation at the ceremony.
"It’s a longer process, but we want to be part of the buffalo being back on the lands that is their heritage as well," Grounds said of the first buffalo that will be returned to his tribe's land.
The ceremony included a drum and travel blessing before the bison were loaded onto trailers to get to their final destinations.
"May this acknowledgment be a commitment to dismantle ongoing legacies of oppression and inequities and recognize the current and future contributions of Indigenous communities in Denver," Denver City Council president Jamie Torres said.
The donation of Denver Mountain Parks bison to American Indian Tribes and American Indian nonprofit organizations will continue through 2030, the city said.
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