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Native groups succeed at raising buffalo in southern Idaho 6-25-07

FORT HALL, Idaho (AP) - Historically, American Indians from the Shoshone and Bannock tribes in southern Idaho traveled to present-day Wyoming and Montana to hunt buffalo.

Today, the Native American groups on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation have a herd of 400 domesticated bison, up from just a couple dozen when their breeding program began in the early 1960s.

This summer, a pair of two-year-old, 800-pound shaggy beasts will be on display behind a 9-foot fence at the Shoshone-Bannock Museum off U.S. Interstate 15.

Tribal leaders say raising the animals, North America's largest ruminant at upwards of 2,000 pounds full grown, helps put Indians in touch with their traditional roots before the reservation was created in the 1868 Fort Bridger treaty. That's when the tribes collected roots on the Camas Prairie, harvested salmon on the Boise and Snake rivers - and then traveled to the banks of the Yellowstone River to the east to kill bison.

“Because buffalo are so big and strong, they have a strong spirit,” said Lance Tissidimit, the Shoshone-Bannock tribe's buffalo program supervisor. “The buffalo represents the native culture.”

The majority of the buffalo, raised on a 4,300-acre range on the Fort Hall river bottoms, are butchered and sold locally, with their hormone-free meat going for about $3.75 a pound. An annual draw lets Shoshone-Bannock tribal members kill five buffalo. The tribe sells about 55 tags to nontribal members each year.
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