Blackfeet Nation celebrates a step forward in tribal sovereignty
BROWNING (KPAX) - The Blackfeet Nation celebrated the release of a herd of buffalo into the wild near Babb on June 26, 2023, marking the first time that Iinniiwa (buffalo) roamed the sprawling landscape since 1873.
The two dozen buffalo released on Monday are direct descendants of buffalo that resided on these lands 150 years ago.
The Ninnistaakoo (Chief Mountain) area, where the Iinniwa now roam freely, lies where the Rocky Mountains meet the American Prairie in a sacred land known to Blackfeet as Mistaaksis — the Backbone of the World.
To the Blackfeet Nation's knowledge, it marks the first time in American history that a Sovereign Indigenous Nation has returned wild free-roaming buffalo to their native habitat.
Lauren Monroe Jr., the vice chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council said that releasing the buffalo back into their ancestral homeland is the first step for the tribe and his people to reclaim their cultural identity.
"As a Blackfeet Indian, I'm struck by the complete turnaround from history. It wasn't too long ago when the Buffalo were killed off, and the Indian agents controlled our destiny. Now over 100 years later, this is one more leap in being Blackfeet and wrestling back our culture and history from the grasps of colonization. We no longer have to ask permission to be Blackfeet. We will live it," Monroe said.