By Herb Ryan
November 2, 2016
WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, SD – Speakers, music, and light refreshments were the order of the day at Wind Cave National Park’s celebration of the designation of the bison as the National Mammal. The event was held Tuesday afternoon November 1, 2016 on the Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center front lawn.
“We are pleased to be hosting this event honoring the naming of the North American bison as the official National Mammal of the United States,” said Park Superintendent Vidal Dávila. “Bison nearly went extinct in the late 1800s, and their survival is one of the country’s greatest conservation success stories. The 450 bison we have in the park are descendants of those early animals.”
The keynote speaker, Congresswoman Kristi Noem, lead co-sponsor for the National Bison Legacy Act, which President Obama signed into law earlier this year. Noem said, “The journey of the Bison from near extension to America’s First National Mammal was marked by struggle and resilience. It took republicans and democrats, people who represented South Dakota, people who represented places like the Bronx to raise the bison “Great Tatanka” as a Native American symbol of our heritage. And that’s the American frontier that still defines America from all those other countries across the world.”
Kelly Aylward spoke on the importance of the celebration at Wind Cave and the fact that the Wind Cave herd descends from bison sent west from the Bronx Zoo to repopulate the park in the early 1900’s. Kelly Aylward is the Head of Federal Affairs, Wildlife Conservation Society.
Jim Stone, Executive Director Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council talked about the relationship between the historic buffalo family units and ” how historic buffalo formed small family units within a wider herd circle of other related units”. Stone went on to explain the dynamic of the historic buffalo family units having a parallel with today’s Native American society and the need make historic Buffalo society a part of today’s human experience.
The Hot Springs High School Bison Band under the direction of Nathaniel Kroshus played the National Anthem and America The Beautiful. Fourth graders from Hot Springs attended the ceremony and received their Fourth Grade “Every Kid in a Park” Pass allowing free entrance to any Federal land agency site requiring an entrance fee.