Local Native-Owned Business Celebrates Return of Buffalo to the Northland

SAWYER, MN – “My great-great grandfather was Chief Buffalo, and I wrote a story about him for work about a year, maybe a year and a half ago, and after that I had a dream and he came to me and he said, “Bring back my namesake,” said David Wise, owner of Nature Wise.

Almost immediately after having that dream, David and his wife started the process of bringing buffalo back to the Fond du Lack Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Last Friday, they were able to see all their hard work pay off, celebrating the arrival of 12 buffalo from a nature preserve in Nebraska. Organizations like The Nature Conservancy and Tanka Fund help make it possible for these animals to return to native lands after being on the brink of extinction 150 years ago.

“To think about having almost lost them many, many years ago to near extinction and now you get to actually look at them in your backyard. The buffalo is a magnificent animal that not only heals the land, heals the people, brings girth back to your economy, but it’s time for us to appreciate what was almost lost,” said Arnell Abold, business development director of Tanka Fund.

For thousands of years, buffalo provided food, clothing, and a way of life for indigenous people as they shared the land together. But, there is also another reason for them to celebrate these animals coming home to northern Minnesota.

“The buffalo is an ancestor for indigenous people, and there’s a cultural and spiritual connection there. And ideally that, that’s what we’re working to bring back – that connection for people, bring them back to the land, to our lives, to our economies,” said Abold.

At his Nature Wise Farm, David’s goals are to grow the herd into a self-sustaining population and to set up a mentorship program for native youth to learn about their ecology. He also hopes that the animal’s introduction into the local ecosystem will promote a return of some native plants.

“Bison graze differently than cattle. They don’t graze the forage down so low, and when their hooves interact with the soil, they promote certain kinds of plants to grow,” said Wise

The buffalo are currently being held in a smaller corral where they will be while acclimating to their new home.  After a few days they will be able to enjoy a much larger 20 acre field. David hopes to expand both the size of the field and the herd in the coming years.

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