The bison, once nearly wiped out by European settlers intent on wresting control of Plains Indian food supplies, is now one step closer to becoming the U.S.’s national mammal, joining the bald eagle as a symbol.
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the National Bison Legacy Act last week, a bill that would designate the iconic animal as the country’s national mammal.
“The bison, like the bald eagle, has for many years been a symbol of America for its strength, endurance and dignity, reflecting the pioneer spirit of America,” said Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) of South Dakota in a statement on Friday December 4, invoking its importance to tribes. “It makes sense for this noble animal to serve as our national mammal. The National Bison Legacy Act recognizes the important cultural and economic role the bison has played in our history, in North Dakota and across our nation.”
The move has been afoot since June 2014, when the act was introduced, sponsored by several senators. Another version, H.R.2908, is pending in the House of Representatives. The bill is also supported by the 57 tribal nations of the Intertribal Buffalo Council.
“Bison have roamed the North Dakota prairie for thousands of years, and they continue to remain intertwined in our state’s heritage and traditions,” said Heidi Heitkamp, one of the bill’s sponsors, according to Agweek. “As a symbol of strength and resilience, bison also continue to play an important role in Native American culture, and have had a great impact on our American history and heritage. It’s fitting that the bison be recognized as the national mammal of the United States as we continue to take pride in its impact to our culture.”