Sometimes nature is cruel. Fortunately, we have not had a tough winter in South Dakota so far. However, the Buffalo Nation has been taking a hit, particularly in South Dakota this winter. A very, very nasty virus called Mycroplasma bovis has been hitting some the buffalo herds rather hard. This virus is normally found in cattle, and in recent years has begun to show up in buffalo herds. Cattle have had centuries to build up an immunity to the disease, but buffalo have not. It looks much like pneumonia but can not be treated like pneumonia, and because buffalo do not appear to be sick until they are really sick, it is hard to tell when it hits a herd until the spread is quite wide. Buffalo become lethargic, thin and appear to look as if they can’t breathe very well. It hits deep into the lung area where antibiotics can not seem to penetrate.
One elder said that it appears if the buffalo and Natives do have a similar fate, as the tribal nations still deal heavily with sickness and death from COVID; the buffalo are having issues the same with Mycroplasma. Some buffalo will recover, some will die, and some will have lasting effects from the disease.
Tanka Fund will collaborate with entities that are researching and educating about the disease. We are thankful for the National Bison Association, Center for Bison Excellence South Dakota State Univeristy, InterTribal Buffalo Council, and USDA for all the work that they are doing to find out more information and assist buffalo programs across the nation.
The Buffalo Nation has also taken a hit, as there was a great loss on the passing of a very fine young man from the Standing Rock Nation who has taken his journey. Will Cameron was the buffalo project manager of the Rock Creek District Buffalo Project. Tanka Fund was just beginning to work with Will on the project. We will dedicate in his memory, many things this year to keep his vision alive. Please consider in your prayers his family and friends. We will keep our donors, supporters and friends apprised of how we will remember him.
On a kinder and happier note, we are truly grateful for all the support and interest in Tanka Fund in 2021. We are in the mist of finalizing our “Support the Return” campaign report, but we are excited to say that we exceeded our goal of $50,000 to almost $85,000. We are so very thankful and happy. With generous donations from donors and foundations, we were able to support Native buffalo projects with over $200,000 of funding in 2021. This was a split between 10 different projects, and we can say we have helped support approximately 100,000 acres and roughly 1500 head of buffalo so far.
We are finalizing a strategic plan that we help us get to our million-acre goal and 100,000+ head of buffalo within the next 10 years. This next year, we believe there will be at least three new buffalo projects that will be able to begin caretaking of buffalo. Many of the projects are in need of fencing, corral and water development and land acquisitions and leasing of lands. We have hired a director for Tanka Resilient Agriculture Company (TRAC) who will lead us in the working on financial and business planning, and we will soon be hiring a full-time technical assistance person. We are also going to hire a part-time GIS/GPS specialist that is working on conservation plans with the projects. This next year looks bright.
Tanka Fund and the Buffalo Nation are looking forward to spring in the Dakotas, and a great year of restoring buffalo to the land, lives and economy of Native people.