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Helpers Mentoring Society
The Bison Project
The Bison Project endeavors to create a regenerative bison (American Buffalo) management program which brings healing and connection to the land, people, and traditional indigenous culture.
Creating Abundant Regeneration
The teachings of Helpers Mentoring Society’s founder, Sal Gencarelle, was primarily informed through his three decades of apprenticing and learning the spiritual/cultural practices of the Lakota Sioux – specifically the Woptura lineage. His years of learning were focused on the ancient wisdom of human relationships to the natural world – including the teachings of the bison.
Earth-based cultures are informed by nature and look to the natural world for guidance to better understand life. Within many Native American cultures, the bison is an archetype that represents healing and abundance of the ecosystem. The Lakota culture holds a special place for bison. It is understood that the bison species is so impactful that they are recognized as a force of nature - comparable to the changing of the seasons.
Supporting the Bison to Support the Ecosystem
Many of the cultural/spiritual teachings of Native Americans could be considered esoteric or even metaphorical. But recent scientific studies are validating these ancient teachings as literal truth. In a recent study, scientists have determined that bison affect growth patterns of plants even more than the change of seasons from spring to summer (here is the study: abstract). Here is a link to a Smithsonian article for more information: Yellowstone Bison Engineer an Endless Spring to Suit Their Grazing Needs
Before the arrival of Europeans in North America, approximately 50 million bison populated the land. The massive herd collectively was the largest aggregation of large animals known to recorded history. By the early 1900s, the bison were driven to near extinction through aggressive depopulation practices supported by the government in the suppression of the plains Native Americans who depended on the bison for food and daily life needs. This dramatically affected not just the Native Americans but the entire ecosystem of the great plains.
We now understand that when we lose animals, we also lose everything those animals do. The destruction of the bison created impacts on the land and ecology in ways that are still not fully understood – but it’s now known that their absences alters seasonal changes.
Helping the Bison to Return
Fortunately, before the bison were driven to complete extinction, a few people preserved the last remnants of about 500 bison. These small herds persevered and grew in ranches and zoos in the US. And Canada. Slowly over the past 100 years, bison populations have rebound. Now commercial herds total as many as 400,000.
The bison are core to the history and cultures of many indigenous peoples and hold a special place in maintaining the balance of the environment. Helpers Mentoring Society's Bison Project helps people reconnect to this magnificent animal and learn directly through experience.
The Bison Project gives the members of Helpers Mentoring Society a way to be part of returning the bison to the land and rejuvenating the ancient relationship between people and bison. For those who travel to our site in South Dakota, you can even get to know the bison up close and personally. Each year visitors are able to hand feed our young calves and spend time near the older herd.
Ways For You To Support
The main duty of any bison manager is to tend the land - which not only is good for the bison but incredibly supportive to the entire ecosystem. Holistic grassland management, which includes rotational grazing, supports not just healthy grass (bison’s primary food) but also soil retention, surface and groundwater flow, and even CO2 sequestering. A healthy bison herd reflects healthy land management.
Many aspects of the Bison Project will depend on funding from people called to support this endeavor. We can accept financial support now through our donation link at the bottom of this page.
Ways to get involved as this project:
Financial Donations: We are currently expanding the land base and herd size. This expansion requires fencing improvement, water access, acquiring more bison and handling facilities for monitoring and veterinarian treatment. Financial contributions of any amount will be directly applied to the Bison Project. Donation link here or at the bottom of this page.
Fencing - $17,000
Heard Expansion: $17,000 (4 females and one bull)
Water Well - $10,000
Bison Handling/Veterinarian Facilities: $50,000
Land Expansion: $168,000
Volunteer Work - The Bison Project offers many opportunities for people who are able to do in-person internships at a bison ranch. Please use this CONTACT US link to let of know of your desire to come to our location in South Dakota.
Special Thanks to past contributors and volunteers:
Rod McAfee and Linda Neale
Joel and Beth Dubois
Anthony and Adrienne Gencarelle
Stewart and Marie-Helene Dalila - Boyle
Donations now being accepted.
Your support will go directly to the Bison Project to make the Vision of bison return to the land a reality.Donate Now