Minnesota farm welcomes buffalo's return to tribal land
"It was awesome to hear the thunder of their hooves on the ground," said David Wise. Before Monday, there were no buffalo within the reservation boundaries of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
SAWYER, Minnesota — David Wise welcomed buffalo home Monday night.
With a smudge pot of burning sage, he called their Ojibwe name and about 11 bison darted out of their trailer onto Fond du Lac (Gwaaba'iganing) soil.
“They’ve been missing here since the 1800s,” said Wise. “It was awesome to hear the thunder of their hooves.”
Before Monday, there were no buffalo within the reservation boundaries of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. To celebrate, David and Patra Wise of Native Wise LLC will host a prayer, a welcoming song and a meal for community members from 3-5 p.m. Friday at 4020 Kari Road, Sawyer.
The event is a couple of years in the making.
The Wises have been working with the Tanka Fund aims to restore buffalo to Native families and communities. They work closely with the Nature Conservancy, which donated the buffalo.
Interested recipients contact the Tanka Fund, which ensures there is access to land and a plan for infrastructure. The nonprofit provides grant dollars, education and assistance, said Trudy Ecoffey, executive director.
The Tanka Fund covered transportation and vet checks for the Wises’ buffalo, while the Sawyer business owners added fencing, created a watering system and built a corral.
While the Wises are the first Minnesota recipients, the South Dakota-based nonprofit has completed buffalo projects on Standing Rock Reservation and on Rosebud Reservation, among others.
This process is an opportunity for cultural, spiritual, ecological revitalization that’s been lost “because millions of buffalo were slaughtered in the 1800s,” said Ecoffey.
There used to be 30-60 million bison across North America. They provided food, clothing, shelter and spiritual well-being for Native peoples, who used nearly every part of the animal including its horns, meat, hide and tail hairs.
U.S. government officials ordered the slaughter of some 50 million buffalo in an effort to starve Natives into submission and obliterate a key component of survival.
The buffalo are an “icon of strength of not just Indigenous people but of North America,” Ecoffey added.
David Wise had heard of the Tanka Fund while working at the USDA. He’d reached out more than a year ago after a dream, in which “Chief Buffalo said, ‘Bring back my namesake.’
“I didn’t know what he meant,” Wise recalled, but he does now.
From their 380 acres, Native Wise LLC offers wild rice, raw honey, CBD products and have plans for more. Wise hopes to reconnect and educate area Native youth on bison and their impact on regional ecology. He also wants to build a bigger herd, create an apprentice program, among other ideas.
“Those animals deserve to live here, this is where they evolved. That’s why I’d doing what I’m doing,” he said
If you go
What: Native Wise celebration: Join for a prayer, a welcoming song and a meal for community members.
When: 3-5 p.m. Friday
Where: Native Wise, 4020 Kari Road, Sawyer, Minnesota
More info: nativewisellc.net