This week, a Minnesota Tribe welcomes back a familiar relative back on their tribal homelands first the first time in over a hundred years. Reporter Deanna StandingCloud has more.
Deanna StandingCloud: The Pte Oyate are treasured relatives among the Dakota people. Once freely roaming across most of Minnesota for millennia, the buffalo nation or bison as they are referred to in scientific terms, were hunted by settlers to extinction, with the last wild herd disappearing in Minnesota by the 1870’s. Along with it, an entire way of life disappeared as well. Dakota people at Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community are revitalizing their connection to the Pte Oyate.
Cyndy Milda is the Cultural Outreach Coordinator for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. At an early age, Cyndy was instilled by her grandparents to be an active member of her community.
Cyndy Milda: When I turned 18 years old, they told me, you know if you’re going to be a member of this community, you need to be involved. And you need to know your history and all of that, and I kind of took that to heart.
DS: Cyndy has been involved ever since. The idea to bring the buffalo back to the community started about two years ago with the formation of a tribal workgroup.
CM: And we just started talking about them. Do we want to bring them back here? Let’s do the research, you know, and everything like that.
DS: The workgroup connected to other tribal nations with buffalo herds like Red Lake and Prairie Island, as well as the Minnesota Zoo and Minneopa State Park.
CM: We toured some of them just to see with their facilities were like.
DS: For community members, welcoming these relatives home helped them to connect to ancestral wisdom. The buffalo bring important teachings that are relevant in today’s world.
CM: If someone is having a hard time, take them out there just to have them watch the bison and how those teachings and watching the matriarch, like how is she behaving and how is she treating the other ones.
DS: Not only do the buffalo act as natural teachers and spiritual leaders for the community, but having them back on the prairie grassland here in Minnesota is also good for the ecosystem.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community cultural outreach workgroup also sees the potential to develop intergenerational and multidisciplinary programming for community members as they become more acclimated to the buffalo.
CM: They’re going to bring back birds, insects, and reptiles. They’re going to bring back animals that haven’t been here before. They’re going to bring back other plants that haven’t been here before. And to me, that’s what’s exciting. Because all of that that our prairies are our medicine.
DS: The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community envisions a vibrant future with a strong cultural connection.
CM: I’ve seen a lot of special things. Creator, you know, Tukasida – taking care of us. I’ve seen many beautiful things come through ceremony and living that life living that clean and sober life and ceremony life because it’s such a beautiful way to live.
DS: The ten female buffalo will spend the upcoming months reintroducing themselves to the land and the relatives in the area. There is potential for community harvests and breeding the herd in the future. Welcoming the buffalo back to Dakota homelands is not only a strong act of tribal sovereignty, but also a way to preserve cultural connections and offer Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community members the opportunity for spiritual healing and wellbeing.
For MN Native News, this is Deanna StandingCloud.
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