Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community to reintroduce bison on tribal lands in Shakopee

Custer State Park, South Dakota, American Bison known as Buffalo. (Photo by: Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) (Photo by: Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Shakopee will now take part in the reintegration of bison into the Minnesota prairie lands.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) officially announced its plans to reintroduce bison (pte, pronounced puh-TAY) on its tribal lands in Shakopee. After an extensive planning process to successfully bring the bison back to its lands in a safe and sustainable way, the plan is being put into action.

In late fall, the SMSC will welcome up to 15 bison from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota. The herd will live on an expansive 165 acres of tribal land in Shakopee, north of the tribe’s current Organics Recycling Facility. Fencing is being installed at the site to ensure protection from any nearby roads.

The act of reintegration has historical and cultural significance for the SMSC. Historically, the SMSC had a reciprocal relationship with nature, including bison, which the Dakota people depended on for food, medicine and materials. However, SMSC said in a news release, bison nearly went extinct due to colonization when bison were removed from the area in an attempt to eradicate Native populations.

"The story of the bison mirrors the story of Dakota peoples in many ways, and both are resilient," said SMSC Chairman Keith Anderson. "Our tribe has restored and revitalized its relationship with our plant relatives over the decades, and we now have the opportunity to revitalize our relationship with our relative, the pte. Reintroducing bison to our homelands will allow us to bring back traditional ceremonies and food and medicine important to our people."

The reintegration comes after a long and extensive mission for the SMSC to restore the wetlands and prairies that were once widespread in Scott County. Overall, the SMSC has restored more than 1,000 acres of prairie over the past 20 years. The bison will roam freely and graze native prairie plants, helping maintain the health of these ecosystems and restoring balance.

The SMSC is not the first to reintegrate bison. Dakota County Parks offer one example of successful reintegration of bison into the prairie lands, having recently welcomed two calves this past May. The SMSC’s land and natural resources department that is overseeing the planning process and is taking note of these other tribes and organizations to ensure a successful reintegration. The SMSC has been completing a safety plan and will be working with local municipalities and public safety agencies to ensure the safety of the herd and its residents. 

More information is available here.