Five miles doesn’t seem far on the vast, windblown plains of the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. There’s a high point on the dirt road leading to Danny Barcus’ ranch on the east side of the reservation, tucked within the Two Medicine River valley. When Barcus drives up there, as he did one morning in May, he can see about that far in any direction, the peaks of Glacier National Park rising in the distance.
That’s how Barcus, a member of the Blackfeet tribe himself, spotted the buffalo — nearly 200 by his estimate — where they weren’t supposed to be that spring day, their chocolate-brown humps peppering one of his grass-green wheat fields. He called his dogs, hopped in his off-road vehicle, and sped over. The buffalo had crashed through his barbed wire fence and were nibbling on the winter wheat he was growing for his cattle. Over the last year, a punishing drought had settled over the plains, and Barcus had begun to feel helpless, worrying over bills he wasn’t sure he could pay. “My savings account is the grass I saved last year,” he said. “I can’t afford to feed it to the neighbor’s buffal... Read more