Councilors question bison program’s aim
Tribal Councilor Dick Lay stops by a new bison corral after an Oct. 23 Resources Committee meeting in Bull Hollow, Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation’s bison program is now in its third year. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BULL HOLLOW, Okla. – At their Oct. 23 Resources Committee meeting in Delaware County, Tribal Councilors shared concerns about the direction of the Cherokee Nation’s bison program that’s now in its third year.
“If we are going to have buffalo, we need to find a market for them. If they are just for show then we need to curtail the number and take a look at what the cost is for caring for them,” Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard said. “I would like for us to have a cow/calf operation. We have the land with good fences and excellent pasture for grazing to have an excellent operation. This wouldn’t require a lot of manpower to operate.”
Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor said she would like to see the bison processed for meat.
“At this point, I think it is time to move forward with plans for the buffalo other than just having them,” she said. “I would like to see Cherokee Nation begin to process bison for use in our casinos and also to utilize in our Food Distribution programs. Bison is a very healthy alternative to beef, and it is time to take the buffalo project one step further to do some good for the Cherokee people.”
Management Resources Executive Director Bruce Davis said the plan is to build the herd and possibly in the future cooperate with the Quapaw Tribe’s processing plant to process the CN’s bison or build a processing plant.
“Right now it’s just kind of up in the air on what we’re going to do,” Davis said. “We’re just letting the herd grow right now.”
The Quapaw Tribe recently received a $5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for its processing plant, and CN officials were expected to visit it on Oct. 24.
The CN bison operation started three years ago through a $70,000 grant from the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council that funded fencing, sheds and a pond.
In October 2014, the CN acquired a herd of about 30 females from the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It later received a mix of 12 bulls and cows from the Teddy Roosevelt National Park in South Dakota.
The herd has since increased to approximately 95 bison. The daily care of the herd includes feeding, checking fences and checking the “overall herd health,” Chris Barnhart, Natural Resources buffalo herd manager, said.
The bison program recently received a $41,000 grant from the ITBC to add pipe corral fencing to existing corrals on the west and south sides of the 236 acres on which the herd resides. Barnhart said the pipe corral fence extension allows his team to easily access the bison and work with them.
He said there is a possibility of acquiring more bison within the next year.
Tribal Councilors passed a resolution that extended the memberships of Barnhart and Natural Resources Director G.V. Gulager in the Inter-Tribal Bison Council.
“This resolution keeps me a voting member on the ITBC,” Barnhart said. “It gives us the chance to vote on items such as grants and other items beneficial to us. Cherokee Nation has received almost $200,000 from the ITBC over the past four years. Continuing our memberships also puts me in contention for one of the board of director positions which becomes open in November.”
For more information or tours of the bison facilities, call 918-453-5671.