A day ahead of schedule, the Fort Peck reservation in northeast Montana received 63 genetically pure bison from Yellowstone Park late Monday. (See our earlier story, “Pure Strain Bison Returning to Fort Peck.”) The nearly 500-mile transfer went relatively smoothly, although one yearling bison died in transit and, according to an AP report at Huffington Post, some of the animals were unnerved by the flashing cameras used by some of the dozens of tribal members on hand.
Leland Spotted Bird, a Dakota tribal elder and spiritual leader, told the AP, “This has deep spiritual meaning for us. They are the sole survivors from our ancestors.”
But not every one is thrilled that the bison, also known as buffalo, are on Indian land and with the people to whom they mean so much. Some cattle ranchers and landowners have complained that the bison will compete with their herds for rangeland, and had sued to stop the transfer. On Monday afternoon, opponents filed a request for a temporary restraining order, but state District Judge John McKeon took no action.
Cory Swanson, a Helena-based lawyer, called the relatively sudden transfer of the bison a “sneak attack,” according to AP.