Bison, once numbering just 700 after being decimated by the millions, now inhabit all 50 states.

Iconic Bison Could Join Eagle as National Symbol


First the iconic bison got its own day, and now it could join the eagle as a national animal.

Congress is going to consider a bill "to adopt the bison as the national mammal of the United States,” according to the Argus Leader.

The 57 tribes comprising the Intertribal Buffalo Council in Rapid City support the idea, as does the National Bison Association. Both groups were also enthusiastic about the establishment of National Bison Day last fall.

RELATED: Hug a Bison! Nov. 2 First National Bison Day

Sponsored by Senator Tim Johnson, D-South Dakota, the National Bison Legacy Act was also backed by Senator John Thune, R-South Dakota, Senator John Hoeven, R-North Dakota and Senator Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, among others. The National Bison Legacy Act was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday June 11.

"The bison has played an important role in our nation's history, holds spiritual significance to Native American cultures and remains one of our most iconic and enduring symbols," Johnson said in a statement announcing the bill’s introduction.

Johnson also noted both the spiritual and economic importance of bison to American Indians as a major reason the animal should be honored, and recognized efforts to reintroduce bison onto tribal lands.

RELATED: Genetically Pure Bison Returned to Fort Belknap After a Century Away

There are 33,000 bison in South Dakota, according to the Argus Leader, which is one-sixth the national total. In addition there are 1,200 of them in Custer State Park, 165,000 on private U.S. ranches today, 20,000 in public U.S. herds and 200,000 in Canada, the newspaper reported, quoting the Census of Agriculture of the USDA Statistical Service.

“By adopting the North American bison as our national mammal, the National Bison Legacy Act recognizes their historical, cultural, ecological, and economic significance,” Johnson said in his statement.

Support goes across the aisle, as it did for National Bison Day. This could help the animal join the eagle as a national symbol, according to the online campaign Vote Bison. The campaign—and earlier versions of the bill—date back at least two years, to 2012. 

"This legislation is part of a growing effort to recognize the incredible historical and cultural significance of bison here in the United States,” said Representative Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota, who is the bill’s lead sponsor in the U.S. House of Representatives. “Especially in places like South Dakota, the bison symbolizes resilience and honors Native American heritage."

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scd's picture
Submitted by scd on
To me, the buffalo represented freedom, true freedom. No boundaries, no restraint just pure freedom which by the way was also known and experienced by the Tribal people of Turtle Island. Then in an attempt to destroy and enslave a people, there was unleashed an onslaught of devastation by the masters of destruction, the white man. Unfathomable was the destruction. Millions were slaughtered just to control the freedom of a people. This country goes to war in the name of “freedom.” But, I have to argue that the people of this country do not know what “freedom” truly is. If u.s. citizens think they are free because they can go to Wal-Mart any time they want, they are deceived. “Freedom,” free to pay taxes, free to be enslaved (called work) 5, 6 and sometimes 7 days a week. Free to give an opinion and speak their minds on social media sites. Free to disrespect the President and anyone else in authority just because they can, cause they are “free!” If people would lay aside their prejudices long enough to do some research into what it was like to live in this country before these “freedom” fighters came, they would understand why the tribes fought so hard to keep their freedoms. This is an interview that, for one man shows what freedom was … __________________ Where White Man Went Wrong ‘Indian Chief “Two Eagles” was asked by a white U.S. government official, “You have observed the white man for 90 years. You've seen his wars and his technological advances. You've seen his progress, and the damage he’s done.” The Chief nodded in agreement. The official continued, “Considering all these events, in your opinion, where did the white man go wrong?” The Chief stared at the government official then replied, “When white man find land, Indians running it, no taxes, no debt, plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, clean water. Women did all the work, Medicine man free. Indian man spent all day hunting and fishing; all night having sex.” Then the chief leaned back and smiled, “Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that.”’ It is a good thing that they are going to recognize the Buffalo. For me though, this not only represents an animal that at one time was on the verge of extinction, but also a proud people who also were trying to be wiped out as well. The buffalo as well as a people are still alive today and slowly but surely on the rebound to be a representative of what once was that made this land so great. Steve Fire Heart