After a years-long campaign by tribes, conservationists and their allies, the bison appears poised to be designated as the national mammal of the United States.
The National Bison Legacy Act passed through the House of Representatives on April 26, paving the way for the Senate to follow suit as the two congressional bodies align in a rare show of bipartisan support for a cause. The bill initially made it through the Senate late last year, but lacked House approval when the session ended, so had to be reintroduced in the current session.
The bill could be approved in the Senate as soon as this week, the Washington Post reported.
The bison would stand alongside the eagle, another powerful Native symbol, in representing Turtle Island. The designation would draw attention not only to the majestic animal for its own sake, but also provide a platform for education, said the InterTribal Buffalo Council, an advocacy group of 58 tribes in 19 states. The effort has been in tandem with the move to get the first Saturday in November marked as National Bison Day, another effort headed by the ITBC.
“In both efforts the goal is the same, to tell the intertwined stories of the buffalo and tribal people that's existed since time immemorial,” the ITBC said in a posting on Facebook. “We now have a forum to tell these stories so people can fully understand the story of the attempted decimation of the buffalo and tribal peoples.”
“This is an important move to recognize the symbolic, cultural and economic importance of the species to us today and to bring that back to public attention,” said Keith Aune, director of the Bison Conservation Program for the Wildlife Conservation Society, to the website Quartz.