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On May 9, 2016, the American Bison was named the national mammal of the United States. This magnificent animal is now, like the Bald Eagle, an official symbol of our great nation. Thus, the rest of the nation has now joined with the Native American nations in recognizing the sacredness of bison to the well-being and to a deeper understanding of who we are. This reality has led a diverse group of collaborators to plan a three-day symposium that will discuss the history, near destruction, and remarkable revitalization of the Bison and how this animal has played a starring role in living traditions and art from ancient to modern times. Stemming from these conversations will be opportunities for attendees to have visual encounters with historical tours, Native American drumming and dance, as well as art, film, and culinary cuisine inspired by the American Bison.
Committee members have planned the agenda, beginning with ancient origins of the bison and arrival to North America; the cultural and historical significance of the bison to Native American peoples and settlers; the exploitation and near destruction of the bison; and modern efforts to re-introduce and conserve bison herds from both a Native American and farming/ranching perspective, as well as health benefits of the return of the bison to Native American communities.
Woven among the discussions will be folk and traditional arts inspired by the bison across generations in a variety of media. Encounters for attendees will include Native American hoop dancing and flute music preformed by Kevin Locke; artist John Lopez's metal work and sculpture inspired by western culture; Daniel Glick's documentary film of indigenous tribal-led buffalo drive; and more. These artists were chosen because they have captured, through their work, not only the bison as an animal, but also how the bison inspired the Native American community and the folklife for early Euro-American homesteaders.
Day 2 of the symposium will feature an in-depth visit to southwestern North Dakota and northwest-ern South Dakota to visit several historic sites significant to the story of the Bison on the Plains. We will visit the Shadehill Buffalo Jump near Lemmon, one of the most significant prehistoric finds in the area. In addition, participants will visit the Hiddenwood Hunt Historic Site and also the vicinity of Sitting Bull's last buffalo hunt, all which occurred in the 1880s.
Parts of this event will be filmed and used as enhancements for North Dakota Studies curriculum program, implemented by the State Historical Society of North Dakota. This curriculum will be included in North Dakota Studies, which is a compulsory subject for all North Dakota elementary, middle, and high school students.
We believe that this event is an opportunity for the Bismarck-Mandan community as much as it is for history enthusiasts from around the region. It will be an event to explore the rich history of the bison, see its impact on where we are today and learn about the opportunities that are waiting in the near future.
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