Buffalo Restoration on Tribal Lands is a Food Sovereignty Movement

Authors: Megan Davenport*, West Virginia University
Topics: food systems, Indigenous Peoples, Animal Geographies
Keywords: food sovereignty, indigenous geography, buffalo restoration, bison conservation, national park service
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


InterTribal Buffalo Council, a federally recognized American Indian organization, facilitates the restoration of buffalo (Bison bison) on Native American lands in the continental United States in order to enhance cultural and spiritual relationships with the species. The organization supports a membership of Native American Nations and partners with US agencies, corporate entities, and private landowners to transfer buffalo across political boundaries, which often means navigating a complex landscape of conflict and tensions. Despite these challenges, much of ITBC’s work focuses on the role of buffalo in foodways, and supports a wide variety of food relationships its member Nations have with the species. Here we discuss ITBC’s restoration efforts within the framework of the food justice movement, using Holt-Giménez’s (2010) Corporate Food Regime/Food Movement matrix and other food justice scholarship. We argue that ITBC’s work for the past thirty years is exemplary of a food sovereignty movement and form of resistance to settler colonialism; two elements of ITBC’s work that remain largely unrecognized in the food justice literature. Finally, we discuss how the buffalo restoration movement continues to confront inequalities resulting from settler colonialism and contributes to food justice scholarship, particularly involving indigenous and other marginalized groups around the globe.

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