The Rosebud Sioux Nation is reconnecting bison to their rightful place on the Great Plains at the Wolakota Buffalo Range in South Dakota. EcoJustice Radio spoke with Wizipan Little Elk (CEO of REDCO) as we dive into how he and his team are converting 28,000 acres of Rosebud Sioux Tribal lands from cattle to bison.
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Bison Regenerating the Lakota Culture and the Prairie Ecosystem
The Lakota people from the Rosebud Sioux Nation are reclaiming and regenerating Indigenous Ecosystems while exercising their sovereignty as the original stewards of the Black Hills region of South Dakota. The Wolakota Buffalo Range, a project of the Rosebud Economic Development Corp. (REDCO), is fulfilling the vision of reconnecting buffalo (bison) to their rightful place on the Great Plains, and people of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Nation).
Before European colonizers arrived on Turtle Island, bison, or buffalo as the Lakota often refer to them, roamed freely, numbering in the millions. It is estimated that somewhere in the vicinity of 60 million buffalo once traversed these lands, covering terrain extending eastward to North Carolina, westward to California, southward to Mexico and northward to Canada, all the while balancing the broader ecosystem.
A sacred keystone species of Turtle Island, buffalo remain essential to the Indigenous lifeways of the Lakota people and various other First Nations, culturally, spiritually, and cosmologically. It is for this reason, that in the 19th century the U.S. government launched a devastating campaign to exterminate “Indians” by first slaughtering buffalo to near extinction; it was a catastrophic means to move “Indians” once and finally onto reservations. At their lowest point, roughly only one thousand buffalo remained, such was the extent and success of the genocidal mission mounted against the Natives of these lands.
The Rosebud Sioux Working on Regeneration
As far as the prairie ecosystem goes, when bison thrive, so does everything else. Through the actions of their hooves and grazing the grasslands, they lengthen the springtime season of plant growth. They also create ideal habitat for prairie dogs, who in turn feed coyotes.
Listen to EcoJustice Radio’s discussion with guest Wizipan Little Elk (CEO of REDCO), as he shares how the Lakota people are reclaiming and exercising their sovereignty as the original stewards of the Black Hills region. Wolakota Buffalo Range is fulfilling the vision of returning buffalo to their rightful place on the Great Plains. 28,000 acres of Rosebud Sioux tribal lands are being converted from cattle lands in order to once again become the home to a projected initial herd of 1,500 buffalo, with more envisioned to come in the future.
Learn how the return of the buffalo will protect and strengthen the prairie ecosystem, mitigate climate change, restore biodiversity, regenerate the soil, and revitalize the enduring culture and spirit of the Lakota community. The Seventh Generation prophecy foretells of the resurgence of the Lakota people and the return of the buffalo is an inherent part of this empowerment. Wolakota Buffalo Range is just one of many projects being initiated to ensure prosperity, high quality of life and restoration of cultural values for the Lakota people and future generations.
The return of the bison will protect and strengthen the prairie ecosystem and create cultural opportunities, and will benefit the next Seven Generations.
Bringing Back the Bison at Wolakota Buffalo Range - EcoJustice Radio
*Wizipan Little Elk is a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe where he serves as CEO of REDCO and its ecosystem of organizations that promote socioeconomic prosperity for the Lakota people of the Rosebud Reservation. Wizi’s previous experience includes political and legal work for a leading firm in Washington, DC, and serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior. He received his B.A. from Yale and his law degree from the University of Arizona.
*Carry Kim, Co-Host of EcoJustice Radio. An advocate for ecosystem restoration, Indigenous lifeways, and a new humanity born of connection and compassion, she is a long-time volunteer for SoCal350, member of Ecosystem Restoration Camps, and a co-founder of the Soil Sponge Collective, a grassroots community organization dedicated to big and small scale regeneration of Mother Earth.
Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Interview by Carry Kim
Intro by Jessica Aldridge
Engineer: Blake Lampkin
Show Created by Mark and JP Morris
Music: Javier Kadry
Image: Courtesy of Wolakota Buffalo Range
Originally Published 4 June 2021, Updated 16 March 2023
Transformative tales that thrive in the world of Lost Souls, Fallen Angels, Shapeshifters, Extra-Planetary Dragons, and Lucky Charms. From an assortment of writers, now available from Borda Books and WilderUtopia Books is The Fifth Fedora: An Anthology of Weird Noir & Stranger Tales curated by Jack Eidt and Silver Webb.