WASHINGTON (June 24, 2016) – The Vote Bison Coalition held a special reception at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian to celebrate the adoption of the North American bison as America’s national mammal.

Thanks to the cultural, historical, economic and ecological contribution of bison, Congress passed the National Bison Legacy Act last month with unanimous support to make the adoption official. President Obama signed the legislation on May 9, 2016.

The celebration underscored the guiding principles that the bison represent as America’s national symbol: unity, resilience and healthy landscapes and communities. The event also highlighted the diverse interests supporting bison, represented by the more than 60 organizations, tribes, conservation groups and businesses of the Vote Bison Coalition, led by the Inter Tribal Buffalo Council (ITBC), National Bison Association (NBA), and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell delivered remarks during the celebration, recognizing the value of the bison to the American people and its importance to the Native American people. Councilman Gilbert Suazo, from the Taos Pueblo tribe, offered a blessing and Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Indian Nation performed a traditional Buffalo Song. Also giving remarks were Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Leslie Jones, WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John Calvelli, ITBC President Ervin Carlson, NBA President Roy Liedtke, National Museum of the American Indian Director Kevin Gover, National Buffalo Foundation Vice President Dick Gehring, Turner Enterprises Chief Veterinarian Dr. Dave Hunter, and Association of Zoos and Aquariums Executive Director Kris Vehrs.

Cristián Samper, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said, “As the first conservation success story, bison evoke important values including resilience and unity. Today, conservation efforts are helping restore bison and their essential ecological function to their ancestral landscapes. Bison truly represent the best of America, which is why we celebrate them as our national mammal.”

Ervin Carlson, President of the Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, said: “The recognition of the buffalo as the National Mammal shows the cross cultural stature of this iconic animal and for tribes will allow us to expand our work on reintroducing buffalo into our day to day lives. The buffalo has had a special place in the lives of tribal people since time immemorial and played important roles in our culture, religion and lifestyle. Now buffalo have become a part of the fabric of tribal life once again, created the foundation for an economic movement based on healthy food choices and provided conservation groups opportunities to expand the habitat for the species.”

Roy Liedtke, President of the National Bison Association, said, "A combination of conservation leaders and individual ranchers pulled bison back from the brink of extinction in the late 1800's. We are pleased that ranchers, conservationists and tribal leaders today are continuing to work together to restore bison on rangelands and pastures across the country."

The bison, North America’s largest land mammal, has an important role in America’s history, culture and economy. Before being nearly wiped from existence by westward expansion, bison roamed across most of North America. The species is acknowledged as the first American conservation success story, having been brought back from the brink of extinction by a concerted effort of ranchers, conservationists, American Indian Nations and politicians to save the species in the early 20th century.

In 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt and the American Bison Society began this effort by shipping 15 animals by train from the Bronx Zoo to Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Many American Indian Nations revere bison as a sacred and spiritual symbol of their history and are restoring bison herds on their Nations’ lands throughout the West. Bison now exist in all 50 states in public and private herds, providing recreation opportunities for wildlife viewers in parks, refuges, zoos, and grasslands while sustaining a multimillion dollar sector of American agriculture.

For the past four years, the Vote Bison Coalition has joined people across the country to celebrate National Bison Day on the first Saturday of November. Native American tribes, bison producers, conservationists, sportsmen and women, educators and other public and private partners commemorated the day by hosting events celebrating bison in their communities in dozens of states and participating on social media. The U.S. Senate has for the past three years recognized National Bison Day with an official resolution. The next National Bison Day will occur on November 5, 2016.

The Vote Bison Coalition wishes to thank the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian for co-hosting the celebration, as well as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the National Buffalo Foundation (supported by Durham Ranch, Sierra Meats, Black Kettle Bison, Buffalo Gold Premium Fibers, and Buffalo Wool Company), Ted’s Montana Grill, and the World Wildlife Fund for their support of the event.

For more information on the Vote Bison Coalition, please visit VoteBison.org