August 14, 2005

"In Search of the Buffalo Nation"

Today's Pueblo Chieftain begins a new series on reintroducing buffalo to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

I wish them well, but buffalo-ranching cannot support too many people either. The Indians at Pine Ridge and the other South Dakota reservations are in a double-bind in ways that were not even dreamt of in the 19th century when the reservations were created:

Land and climate wrong for farming. Not much surface water. No significant mineral resources. Too far from a city to commute. Not enough conventionally glamorous scenery for tourism, even with Badlands National Park. ("Badlands" --not exactly sexy.) So even if the Indians a century-plus ago had admitted that the 200 good years of buffalo-hunting were over and wanted to do something else, there is not much else to do there.

Nowadays, too far from a city to attract lots of casino gamblers (Think of that little casino between Valentine, Neb., and Mission, S.D., on the Rosebud Rez. You can't? Not suprising.) I spent much of my childhood in Rapid City, and it has grown more since then, but it is only a "major metropolitan area" by Great Plains standards.

If raising some buffalo and building wind-power generators can help, more power to them. I just do not see how the rez can be more than a retirement home for most of the tribe.

No comments: