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Denver donates bison to tribal nations

Denver maintains two conservation bison herds in the Denver Mountain Parks system at Genesee Park and Daniels Park.

DENVER — Denver has donated 33 bison to the Northern Arapaho Tribe, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Tall Bull Memorial Council to reintroduce wild bison and support conservation efforts on tribal lands.

The City and County of Denver said 15 American Bison were presented Monday to the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming, and 17 bison were transferred to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma.

One bison will be given to the Tall Bull Memorial Council in Colorado.

“For over a century now, Denver has been the proud caretaker of these Bison herds, and we remain committed to their conservation as an integral part of the ecosystem here in the West,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “We’re taking that commitment to a new level, and through this effort with our tribal partners, this is an opportunity to help establish, support, and sustain Native American conservation herds across the country.”  

Last year, Denver City Council approved an ordinance for the donation of American Bison from the City and County of Denver to American Indian Tribes and non-profit organizations.

The first transfer of bison took place in April 2021. Thirteen bison were transferred to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma and one bison to the Tall Bull Memorial Council in Colorado.

RELATED: Denver donates 14 bison to tribal nations

Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) has historically held an annual auction to keep its Genesee Park and Daniels Park bison herds at a healthy population size and promote genetic diversity within the managed bison population.

DPR said it will no longer conduct the auction but will work with its tribal partners to select tribes across the country that will accept the bison to build and enhance conservation herds on tribal lands.

“The bison is not only a vital link to our past as Northern Arapaho, it is essential to our future as we restore this important part of our culture and heritage,” said Elma Brown, interim CEO of the Northern Arapaho Tribe. “I am honored to participate in this bison transfer and look forward to these beautiful animals joining our existing herd and returning to the home of their ancestors on the Wind River Reservation.” 

“The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are pleased to continue the growth of our historical food source. The Denver Mountain Parks Bison are a shot in the arm for our tribal nations. We wish Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, Denver City Council and Denver Parks and Recreation staff a very gracious Hohóú/Né-á’eše (thank you),” said Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Governor Reggie Wassana.

The donation of surplus Denver Mountain Park bison to American Indian Tribes or American Indian Non-Profit organizations will continue through the year 2030, said DPR in consultation with its tribal partners: the Denver American Indian Commission, the Tall Bull Memorial Council and the InterTribal Buffalo Council.

DPR maintains two conservation bison herds in the Denver Mountain Parks system at Genesee Park and Daniels Park.

The herds are descendants from the last wild bison in North America and were originally established at Denver’s City Park by the Denver Zoo and the City of Denver. The herd was moved to Genesee Park in 1914 and expanded to Daniels Park in 1938.

According to DPR, bison herds numbered more than 30 million when the first European explorers set foot on the American continent. The herds were nearly wiped out by the 1880s and by 1900, fewer than 1,000 bison remained in existence. Today it is estimated that there are roughly 31,000 free-range wild bison in North America.

RELATED: Stomachs of bison (or, the final products coming out of them) regenerate Colorado's soil

Credit: City and County of Denver
Credit: City and County of Denver

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