Aaniiih Nakoda College to Establish Buffalo Research and Education Center

Aaniiih Nakoda College, a tribal college in the Fort Belknap reserve, plans to establish a ʔíítaanɔ́ɔ́nʔí / Tataģ a (Buffalo) research and education center over a five-year period, according to a press release.

The center aims to enrich the relationship between the people of Fort Belknap, the tribal bison herd and the prairie ecosystem. The center will conduct ecological research on the Fort Belknap bison herd and provide university training to increase the community’s knowledge of sustainable management.

Sean Chandler, president of Aaniiih Nakoda College, said the new center will enable faculty and students “to play an active and responsible role in becoming better stewards of our animal parents, our lands and our environment.”

Funding for the project was made possible by the National Science Foundation, which provided the tribal college with $ 3,500,000.

A Fort Belknap bison bull roamed the herd in 2012.

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In collaboration with the Fort Belknap Indian Community Buffalo Program, the Fish and Wild Life Department, the World Wildlife Fund, Little Dog Wildlife, and visiting professors from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the center will conduct six research projects, listed below:

  1. Monitor the Snake Butte bison herd to determine how resource selection and social interactions influence herd movements.
  2. Conduct a study on the interactions between buffaloes and pastures by correlating data on herd movements with detailed vegetative records.
  3. To determine post-release dispersal patterns, survival rates and home range estimates of reintroduced Swift Foxes.
  4. Develop survey protocols and conduct population surveys for the five ungulate species (hoofed mammals) at Fort Belknap.
  5. Examine the keystone effects and associations between prairie dogs and prairie birds.
  6. Conduct an interpretive study to assess community perceptions of the value of the Fort Belknap bison herd.

To enhance community knowledge, the center will offer eight community educational opportunities, including:

Bison roam a large enclosed area on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in north-central Montana.  Bison were moved there from 2012 as part of a pilot project.
  1. Develop a bison, prairie and wildlife ecology curriculum to create a specialized option within the college’s ecology degree program.
  2. Provide undergraduate research opportunities for students to work as research assistants on one of the six research projects (listed above).
  3. Offer a one-year scholarship to selected students to work with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
  4. Work with the Fort Belknap Community Buffalo Group to facilitate bi-monthly meetings to increase community awareness of the Fort Belknap Indian Community Buffalo program.
  5. Provide social and economic benefit studies exploring strategies for leveraging tribal lands, wildlife and other natural resources to improve community benefits and economic well-being.
  6. Hosting ʔíítaanɔ́ɔ́nʔí / Tataģ of a series of lectures and radio broadcasts.
  7. Conduct awareness programs in local schools that will provide young people with interesting opportunities to learn more about the plants, animals and ecosystems of the reserve.
  8. Establish a tribal bison community of practice.
A herd of bison from Fort Belknap roams a reserve pasture in February 2012.

Aaniiih Nakoda College welcomes around 150 students each year and offers an Associate of Nursing Program in Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Ecology Aaniiih Nakoda.

Tribal colleges emerged in the 1960s and aim to reclaim the education of indigenous peoples. Today, 37 tribal colleges span 75 sites nationwide. Many are located on reserve lands and serve predominantly Indigenous student populations.

This article contains information from a press release.


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