A herd of wild bison relocated from Yellowstone National Park arrived at Montana's Fort Peck Indian Reservation today.
The bison were initially captured migrating out of the park, and were kept on media mogul Ted Turner’s ranch for the last five years.
Tommy Christian is a 15-year member of the Assiniboine & Sioux tribal council. He says many tribes, including those he represents on Fort Peck, have a strong relationship with the animals, and have only recently been able to express it since hunters nearly massacred the entire species.
"They thought they would kill us when they killed off the buffalo," Christian says. "This is kind of ironic because now the buffalo are coming back and our people are getting stronger and wishing to establish ourselves in our own right from a cultural perspective."
The transfer of the 139 genetically pure bison is the result of the first treaty signed between the U.S. government and Indian nations in 150 years.
Christian was a part of the treaty-signing.
"We’re utilizing the treaty, nation to nation to signify that friendship or that relationship in a good way. We reestablished that with the signing of that treaty."
Fort Peck Fish and Game officials said two tractor trailers carrying almost 100 bison were being unloaded on the reservation today.
A third shipment of several dozen more animals is due Friday.
The bison will be kept in a 140-acre pen at first, before moving to a 13,000-acre pasture later this month. They join about 48 Yellowstone bison previously obtained by Fort Peck.
The tribes hope to expand the herd to about 300 animals. Tribal officials say the bison will be used for food, in cultural ceremonies and to help create pure herds of bison elsewhere.