History of Pte Oyate – the Buffalo Nation

The importance of the buffalo to Native people cannot be overstated. Before colonization, the buffalo was integral to daily Native life. Work, culture, health, and spirituality derived from and honored the buffalo as evidenced in the art, prayers, songs, and celebrations that survive to this day.

In an effort to starve Natives into submission, the U.S. government initiated the policy of removal, and along with it launched an all-out military attack on buffalo to destroy this mainstay of Native life. In the words of General Phillip S. Sheridan, “The destruction of the herd would do more to keep Indians quiet than anything else that could happen.” The impact of the destruction of some 50 million buffalo can still be felt today.

Tanka Fund seeks to reverse those effects through The Return – its campaign to repopulate the Plains with buffalo and re-establish a sustainable buffalo economy to Native lives.

Map showing the historic habitat of the bison and how it shrank to very tiny areas in the 1800s.
Become part of The Return and change the course of history with us.

The Return of Healthy Lands

Buffalo, a keystone species, shaped the prairie ecosystem, the largest biome and once the largest carbon sink in North America. Their physical characteristics and natural herding behavior and migratory patterns regenerate the prairie ecosystem, allowing grasslands and native plant species to flourish.

An open valley with green hills.

The Return of Healthy People

Buffalo meat is a superfood. Grass-fed buffalo meat is low in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat and high in protein, iron, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Access to buffalo meat will not only return health to Natives, but provides a healthy all-natural, organic, gluten free, non-GMO alternative to other meats for all consumers.

The Return of Healthy Economies

Indian Reservations were created to benefit the outside economy. Statistics reveal that the total value of agricultural commodities produced on Native American Reservations in 2007 totaled over $2.1 billion dollars, yet only 16% of that income went to Native American farmers and ranchers. A well-orchestrated campaign to return the buffalo economy to Indian Country can reverse this trend as Native ranchers become part of the rapidly expanding market for bison.

Two family members from the Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Society work on fixing a fence.

What is the Return?

The Return is Tanka Fund’s initiative to assist Native buffalo ranchers to overcome the obstacles they face in growing economically and environmentally sustainable buffalo herds that can feed reservation communities and build community wealth. The Lakota word “tanka”means “great” or “large,” as well as universal interconnectedness with all life, and describes the scope and complexity of achieving the healthy lands, lives, and economies that we envision.