Bison’s relocation to Native lands revives a spiritual bond


              A bison walks along a path through a pasture in Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. In Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation, one of the largest Native American tribes with 437,000 registered members, had a few bison on its land in the 1970s. But they disappeared. It wasn't until 40 years later that the tribe's contemporary herd was begun. (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)
            
              Bryan Warner watches bison in Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. For now the Cherokee are not harvesting the animals, whose bulls can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and stand 6 feet tall, as leaders focus on growing the herd. But bison, a lean protein, could serve in the future as a food source for Cherokee schools and nutrition centers, says Warner, the tribe's deputy principal chief. (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)
            
              A young bison calf stands in a pond with its herd at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. The calf is one of the most recent additions born into the Cherokee Nation herd. In Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation, one of the largest Native American tribes with 437,000 registered members, had a few bison on its land in the 1970s. But they disappeared. It wasn't until 40 years later that the tribe's contemporary herd was begun. (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)
            
              A bison bull grazes in isolation after being separated from the herd in Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)
            
              Bison roam near a pond at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. Bryan Warner, the Cherokee tribe's deputy principal chief, says, “All these different animals — it puts you more in tune with nature. And then essentially it puts you more in tune with yourself, because we all come from the same dirt that these animals are formed from — from our Creator.” (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)
            
              Ryan Mackey speaks about his spiritual connection to bison while visiting the herd in Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. “We don’t speak the same language as the bison,” Mackey says. “But when you sit with them and spend time with them, relationships can be built on … other means than just language alone: sharing experiences, sharing that same space and just having a feeling of respect. Your body language changes when you have respect for someone or something.” (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)
            
              This circa 1908 photo made available by the Library of Congress shows three Apsaalooke men gazing skyward, two holding rifles, and a bison skull at their feet. At left is Pretty Tail and at center is Goes Ahead. Their tribe is also known as Crow. “It’s important to recognize the history that Native people had with buffalo and how buffalo were nearly decimated. … Now with the resurgence of the buffalo, often led by Native nations, we’re seeing that spiritual and cultural awakening as well that comes with it,” says Troy Heinert, a Rosebud Sioux Tribe member who serves as executive director of the InterTribal Buffalo Council. (Edward S. Curtis/Library of Congress via AP)
            
              A bison lopes through a pasture gate on a Cherokee Nation ranch in Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. Births and additional bison transplants from various locations have boosted the population to about 215. The herd roams a 500-acre pasture in Bull Hollow, an unincorporated area of Delaware County about 70 miles northeast of Tulsa and near the small town of Kenwood. (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)
            
              A bison bull wears an ear tag from the Cherokee Nation herd supervisors in Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. Since 1992 the federally chartered InterTribal Buffalo Council has helped relocate surplus bison from locations such as Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona to 79 member tribes in 20 states. (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)
            
              Bryan Warner and Ryan Mackey watch a bison bull through a fence at a ranch operated by the Cherokee Nation in Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. For now the Cherokee are not harvesting the animals, whose bulls can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and stand 6 feet tall, as leaders focus on growing the herd. But bison, a lean protein, could serve in the future as a food source for Cherokee schools and nutrition centers, says Warner, the tribe's deputy principal chief. (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)
            
              Bison graze on 500 acres of fenced pasture managed by the Cherokee Nation in Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. Originally from the southeastern United States, the Cherokee were forced to relocate to present-day Oklahoma in 1838 after gold was discovered in their ancestral lands. The 1,000-mile removal, known as the Trail of Tears, claimed nearly 4,000 lives through sickness and harsh travel conditions. (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)
            
              A herd of bison grazes during midday at a Cherokee Nation ranch in northeastern Oklahoma on Sept. 27, 2022. Decades after the last bison vanished from their tribal lands, the Cherokee Nation is part of a nationwide resurgence of Indigenous people seeking to reconnect with the humpbacked, shaggy-haired animals that occupy a crucial place in centuries-old tradition and belief. (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)