Native American tribes to build a bison processing plant
By Lacey Newlin, High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal
July 8, 2019
The American Indians have considered the bison a sacred animal for centuries and the bison has continued to support the tribes in the modern era, even with modest numbers. The Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes in Oklahoma are now working to better market the animal most commonly associated with them and open a bison processing facility near El Reno, Oklahoma.
“We have a bison herd and we’ve been raising them to sustain ourselves,” said Nathan Hart, business director for the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. “We’ve looked into the commercial markets and expanding with a private label bison product. In the bison industry, you really have a limited number of animals around the country. A lot of people are making efforts to expand their herds.”
As far as agricultural interests, Hart says the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes have a small cattle herd of about 150 head and their bison herd consists of about 450 head. All together their agricultural program manages 9,800 acres of land, and much of it is soon to undergo a transformation.
“We did have some row crops, but we are in the process of converting everything back to focus primarily on bison in the next three to five years,” Hart said. “A lot of what we’re doing is going back and taking old cropland with wheat-soybean rotations and putting that back into native grasses.”
Hart says the reason the tribe has chosen to change their agricultural program is they believe bison to be a much more economically sound investment for the tribe’s future.
“The demand and prices always fluctuate but right now bison is worth double the price of beef on a per-pound basis,” Hart said.
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