Archives for July 2007

Tribal Buffalo Herd Needs Your Help!

Above: (July 9th, 2007) Tribal Pasture burned in the Stampede Fire on the Pine Ridge Reservation

More News on the Stampede Fire on Pine Ridge
In rural South Western South Dakota, home to half of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s buffalo herds a fast sweeping fire, called the Stampede fire named because of the response from the buffalo, has wiped out the entire vegetation, fence and a small number of buffalo.

The Slim Buttes Pasture is home to roughly 300 head of buffalo. The rugged pasture of deep gulley’s and steep hills has been completely wiped of any edible vegetation for the buffalo. The fence of 34 miles has been nearly completely destroyed. The buffalo as of today are still within the boundaries of their original home. The corrals and sorting wings have been destroyed. The staff of the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation, a total of fifteen individuals, has been extremely busy trying to sustain the herd and repair the damage to the corrals.

The fire which took place on Saturday and Sunday, July 7th and 8th created a crisis for the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation. On Monday the OSPRA board held an emergency meeting in the Bureau of Indian Affairs Conference Room. The board officially documented the need to declare a drought and disaster designation and to have the Oglala Sioux Tribe forward this on to FEMA and other Federal Agencies to assist, financially, with the excessive amount of needs. The Bureau of Indian Affairs Wild land Fire is assisting in putting together the initial damage assessment. Much wild life perished and the OSPRA biologists’ are busy attempting to account for all buffalo and perished wild life. Several birds and owls have been found dead. The rutting or breeding season for the buffalo is currently underway. Because of the disaster the Oglala Sioux Tribal buffalo herd may suffer long-lasting effects on their fertility rates.

The Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority are in the process of attempting to rebuild the corrals, find hay and water. Several calls have been made and public information is being sent out. The rebuilding of the corral is the first priority. Once the wing and corral is rebuilt, the buffalo can then be rounded up and transferred to another pasture. This is a short-term fix. The other buffalo and elk pasture are currently at maximum capacity and the additional buffalo will need to be moved within four to six months. During this time the buffalo will need to be supplemented with hay.

The fence will need to be repaired and in many locations replaced. The cost for buffalo fence is exorbitant and the OSPRA does not have the dollars to rebuild or repair the fence. Therefore, we are sending out this little piece of information asking for any type of monetary or fencing donations.


300 buffalo need to be transported
Corral Rebuilding cost – $51,092.55
Fence Rebuilding cost – $562,342.52
Transporting cost – $4,800

Hay/Feed cost – $115,200.00

Send Your Support to OSPRA’s Stampede Fire Fund

Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority

P.O. BOX 570
Kyle, SD 57752

[email protected]

Banking Information:

First National Bank
134 N. Main Street
PO BOX 290
Gordon, NE 69343
Phone: 308/282-1103
Fax: 308/282-08
Account Name: Stampede Fire Fund
Account Number: 138150

Bank Routing #: 104102781


The Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority (OSPRA) is responsible for wildlife management policies, activities and plans for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. OSPRA, through its “Lakota Stewardship Model”, has worked diligently to manage tribal lands in a culturally appropriate manner with decisions based on scientific data. Maintaining species and community diversity is a critical component of our ecological and cultural heritage.

The Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority (OSPRA) is currently in its 32nd year as a Tribally Chartered Organization of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. OSPRA is charged with wildlife management policies and activities for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation which encompasses about 2 million acres, roughly the size of Connecticut. Its population – primarily Lakota – is currently estimated at approximately 25,000. Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is a land of tremendous geographic diversity, ranging from undulating prairies to the stark and picturesque badlands. With the adjacent Badlands National Park, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is considered to be one of the most intact indigenous prairie ecosystems in North America.

Since its original Charter in 1973, OSPRA has taken the lead role in protecting and preserving the natural and biological resources of the Tribe. OSPRA has four basic divisions:

    • 1) Buffalo/Elk Division
    • 2) Biology Division
    • 3) Enforcement Ranger Division
    • 4) Administration Division

The Buffalo/Elk Division has steadily increased the Tribe’s buffalo herd from just a few animals to a population of almost 1,000 animals grazing naturally over approximately 31,000 acres of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. We have carefully maintained the genetic integrity of the herd. Our management practices regard
ing the buffalo demonstrate OSPRA’s capacity to nurture a species to health. In addition, these ranges have been utilized for several species studies and reintroductions, including black-tailed prairie dogs, burrowing owls, and ferruginous hawks. The OSPRA has also assisted in the Badlands National Park’s Black Footed Ferret Reintroduction Program.

The Enforcement Ranger Division is responsible for enforcement of game laws on the Reservation in addition to such activities as game survey, research projects, and educational initiatives. All Rangers are fully certified law enforcement officers with authority to investigate offenses, make arrest, etc. Each Ranger is making a career at OSPRA and most have more than 10 years of service to the organization. OSPRA has invested considerable training in the officers, especially related to wildlife management. The proposed project will make extensive use of skills possessed by our Rangers and will provide additional opportunities for them to engage in productive research and receive additional professional training.

OSPRA’s Administration Division has been significantly strengthened in the past year. The new OSPRA Executive Director has extensive experience in program administration and management. Besides having an extensive background in environmental issues, he is considered to be a leading cultural figure on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He has implemented steps to document performance standards among staff and has streamlined administrative functions. OSPRA’s Finance Office is now utilizing a Comptroller to enhance accountability.

The Executive Director has identified wildlife research as a necessary component of OSPRA. The organization has already developed essential elements of its “Lakota Stewardship Model” that emphasizes both the biological and cultural aspects of wildlife management. Through this plan OSPRA has worked diligently to manage tribal lands in a culturally appropriate manner and to create a harmonious balance between plant and animal life requirements and the needs of the human population. One of OSPRA’s primary objectives is to restore key elements within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation ecosystem to a condition before attempts were made to introduce systematic agriculture.

OST and Brave Heart Buffalo Pastures Damaged by recent Wildfire

Below is a story reposted from the Rapid City Journal about a recent wildfire on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This fire destroyed part of the fencing shared by the OST Tribe and the Brave Heart Family, allowing their buffalo to get loose. We are currently accepting donations to help support the reconstruction of this portion of the fence and the recovery of the buffalo.

To learn more read the article below.

Reposted from Rapid City Journal

Stampede Fire spares buffalo, scorches pasture

Anyone who sees stray buffalo should call the parks and recreation authority at 455-2584

By Heidi Bell Gease, Journal staff

Most of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s buffalo herd has survived a fire that has so far burned 23,000 acres on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

But the Stampede Fire — named for the herd’s response to the flames — has burned 17,000 acres of pasture that’s home to about 300 buffalo.

“All the grass burned, so we’re in the process of rounding them up and moving them to another pasture between Allen and Kyle,” Birgil Kills Straight, executive director of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Parks and Recreation Authority, said Tuesday. “But at some point, we need to find more of a permanent place for them.”

The parks and recreation authority manages the tribe’s herd of about 680 buffalo. About 300 have been living in pasture near Slim Buttes, with another 380 or so held in pasture land near Allen. The herd provides buffalo meat for wakes and funerals, school and elderly meals, diabetes programs and other needs.

The Stampede Fire, still burning west of Pine Ridge started Saturday. Kills Straight said it burned through the middle third of the Slim Buttes’ buffalo pasture first, then burned the rest of the land after the wind shifted later in the day. On Sunday morning, the fire was still burning in some of the pasture’s deep canyons.

Most of the buffalo appear to have survived the fire, though Kills Straight isn’t sure how. “They’re smart, so they somehow escaped,” he said.

He said crews had so far found just four older buffalo cows dead. They counted about 220 animals in the pasture area Monday, and on Tuesday, crews were conducting an aerial search to try to spot the rest.

Kills Straight said Page Baker, superintendent of Badlands National Park, had asked the Civil Air Patrol to help tribal authorities find any animals outside the burn area. Anyone who sees stray buffalo should call the parks and recreation authority at 455-2584.

Kills Straight said crews would use ATVs and horses Tuesday to move the herd toward an area where they could get hay and water. The animals will then be loaded into stock trailers and hauled 75 miles to the pasture near Allen, where they will join the rest of the herd.

“We might be able to hold them in that pasture for awhile,” Kills Straight said, depending how many buffalo survived. “We have another pasture that’s about 10,000 acres (near Oglala) that we need to fence immediately.”

That alone will be a big job. Kills Straight estimates they’ll need at least 4,000 new fence posts, plus lots of wire.

Meanwhile, Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation group, has donated some hay for the herd. The Tribal Land Enterprise from Rosebud has also offered its help to get the animals through the winter.

The Stampede Fire was about 80 percent contained by Monday night, said Daigre Douville, fire management officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Pine Ridge Agency Fire Management Office. No structures are currently threatened.

A setback for firefighters on the Alabaugh Fire at Hot Springs proved to be a benefit for crews fighting the Stampede Fire last weekend. Two heavy air tankers called in to help with Alabaugh were instead used to fight the Stampede Fire, Douville said.

With fires raging throughout the West and firefighting resources in short supply, the Pine Ridge fire might not otherwise have had the aerial support.

“We just got lucky that day because they got smoked in (at Hot Springs),” Douville said. “Visibility was too poor, so we got to use them.”

Without the tankers, he said, “it could have been worse.”

An investigation team arrived Tuesday to determine the cause of the Stampede Fire. Two 800-gallon single-engine air tankers are stationed at Pine Ridge, and Douville said a strike team of volunteer engines from Pierre, Kennebec, Parker, Renner and Colman was also on hand.

Support The Wounded Knee Tiyospaye Project

Above: Calvin White Butterfly, Director of the Wounded Knee Tiyospaye Project

Village Earth first met Mr. Butterfly in 2003 where he invited us to visit with him to learn about his vision for the Wounded Knee District and the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The goal of the Wounded Knee Tiyospaye Project is to revitalize the tiyospaye system to become a legitimate and recognized unit of social and political organization in the District of Wounded Knee and across the reservation. Another goal of the project is to reclaim and sustainably utilize lands traditionally held by tiyospayes for living and economic development such as raising bison, farming, and tourism.

The objectives of the project include:

  • Identify individuals in the Wounded Knee District to serve as liaisons for their tiyospaye in district and reservation-wide planning and decision-making.
  • Develop a representative board of directors made up of tiyospaye liaisons.
  • Assist each tiyospaye to develop a long term vision and plan for their tiyospay.
  • Assist each tiyospaye to develop projects in their communities such as gardens, craft coops, housing, raising bison, tourism, etc.
  • Partner with Village Earth and other organizations to locate, access, and manage resources needed by tiyospayes for their plans (e.g. cash, tools and equipment, information, training, etc.)
  • Bring tiyospayes together periodically to focus on district wide issues such as land use, tourism, craft sales, etc.

As of July 2007 the Wounded Knee Tiyospaye Project has identified and mobilized eight separate tiyospayes and corresponding liaisons in the Wounded Knee District who are now recognized at district meetings. They include: Wounded Knee (Canke Ope), White Butte (Makoska), Manderson, White Horse Creek (Sungska Wakpa), Hehun Gleska, Grass Creek (Peji Wakpa), Crazy Horse (Tasunke Witko), Pepper Creek Tiyospaye, and Wakan Tiyospaye.

The project has also developed an initial map of the traditional tiyospaye communities on reservation using a geographic information system (GIS). The purpose of this map is to raise awareness and begin a dialogue on the nature, role, and potential future of these communities on the reservation life.

Community-based Geographic Tech Workshops

Land rights is a constantly recurring theme in our work with indigenous peoples throughout the world. And the Shipibo people have asked for our assistance in their struggles over territory. In June, the Village Earth Peru Project Coordinator held a community-based geographic technology workshop in the lower Ucayali. Leaders from two communities in the Calleria district joined forces to protect their land. Both communities were given legal titles to their land years ago, however, in the dynamic Amazonian environment their lands have changed dramatically since the initial titling. Half of what was once part of the community is now overtaken by the mighty Ucayali River with more and more of the community being washed away daily into the river as it changes course. Originally, indigenous communities changed location as the river moved, but now communities are forced to remain within government-imposed boundaries. 

Forcing indigenous peoples to be subjugated within externally-imposed borders does not work in the dynamic environment of the Amazon. However, protecting indigenous land through titling and demarcation is a necessary evil right now in order to protect communities’ rights to land and resources. Much of the strategy of the Peruvian government has been to conquer and divide indigenous territories. However, many indigenous leaders and activists are calling for a new way to think about indigenous territory – and to remind the world they have sustainably managed their forests for thousands of years. “The demand for territorial clarity and non-overlapping negotiations on land issues is predicated on an acceptance of the EuroAmerican way of viewing land, demarking and dividing the land and environment and relationships between people on the basis of European-derived notions of property, ownership, and jurisdiction.”* 

Therefore, these communities are looking to expand their legally allotted territories, in order to maintain a sufficient land base that can provide for their self-sustainability. Workshop participants learned how to mark and find way points, use the compass, and many other useful features of Geographic Positioning System (GPS) in order to accurately locate boundaries. Each community was given a GPS unit and they are currently marking the points to which they wish to expand their territories and then will send them to Village Earth, where using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, we can help them to create maps that they can use in their negotiations with the government.


Both communities expressed worry about the current land grab in the Amazon by non-indigenous colonists. Roads are slowly creeping into their remote district bringing more and more settlers taking forest resources from the indigenous inhabitants.


These communities still have an expensive and arduous process ahead of them in order to expand their allotted territories. And their are many more communities interested in Village Earth mapping and geographic technology workshops. If you would like to make a contribution to these important efforts, please contact: [email protected]

Thank you to the community that provided lunch to the workshop participants!

*Alfred, Taiaiake. 2005. Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. Broadview Press, Canada.