High school students in a South Dakota town are helping to bring bison back, thanks to a program that encourages consumption of the sacred animal through cooking and other classes.
As Kristi Eaton of the Associated Press reports, the program is also inspiring a reconnection to culture.
The program was started by Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe and South Dakota State University researchers at Flandreau Indian School.
The school began preparing school meals with fresh bison meat last year as part of the pilot project.
Nearly 20 professors across five departments at SDSU are involved in the project, which they hope will be used as a model among other tribes trying to revive the demand for bison.
Although bison tastes a bit different — some think it has a sweeter, richer flavor than beef — Flandreau Indian School senior Dillon Blackbird said he prefers school meals served with bison because it’s “real meat.”
One of more than 30 students from the Flandreau Indian School to take part in cooking workshops with bison as the main ingredient, Blackbird said he now knows how to whip up his own dishes with bison, which has less fat and fewer calories than beef.
“I make basic stuff: tacos, enchiladas, spaghetti, lasagna,” Blackbird said.
SDSU researchers want other teenagers to follow Blackbird’s lead, creating a market within the tribe for the next 40 to 50 years and changing the way members think about the animal.