Tribe building buffalo herd

Buffalo.

Not deer, not elk, not salmon.

Instead of traditional game and fish of the Pacific Northwest, leaders of the Stillaguamish Indian Tribe believe the behemoth of the plains is key to the future health of the region’s American Indians.

Eight buffalo are scheduled on April 15 to be delivered to 56 acres of pasture the tribe has purchased off Highway 530 near Arlington. The buffalo are coming from the Intertribal Bison Cooperative, a nonprofit organization based in South Dakota.

The cooperative helps the federal government move buffalo from overcrowded herds in federal parks, then transports them to Indian tribes around the country who are part of a revitalization of the buffalo-based diet.

Next year, the Stillaguamish Tribe plans to buy 15 more buffalo. Eventually, the herd could be as large as 70 bulls, cows and calfs.

Once the herd is large enough to be used for sustenance, the meat will be portioned out to tribal elders, who will freeze hunks of it to last through the winter.

Research shows that the meat could help combat the staggering diabetes rates among Indians, so pieces of it will be given to families with young children.

Visitors to the herd will be able to purchase their own meat and learn about its historic importance to Indians.

When the air turns cold again late this year, Indians will bring pieces of the slaughtered cows and bulls — their bones, their hides — into winter ceremonies, and thank their creator for the provisions.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

Buffalo meat FACTS

n Meat is low in fat, high in protein and rich in flavor.

n Meat is low in calories with high concentrations of iron and essential fatty acids.

n Buffalo are easily raised, with no need for antibiotics or hormones.

n Indians who eat buffalo meat regularly are less likely to suffer from diabetes and heart disease.

Diabetes facts

n American Indians are 2.2 times more likely to suffer from diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.

n About 15 percent of Indians age 20 and older who receive care from Indian Health Services suffer from diabetes.

Sources: Intertribal Bison Cooperative, National Institutes of Health

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