When I visited South Dakota in June, I bought a book which is their "One Book South Dakota" project - everyone in South Dakota is encouraged to read this book. It intrigued me, so I brought it home (to Minnesota).
Recently I finished reading the book. It's called Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch by Dan O'Brien.
I learned so much! I guess in my earlier life I didn't pay close enough attention to history AND to ecology lessons. I knew that we European settlers did loads of damage to the native culture, language, lifestyle, religion, and wildlife that we encountered. (My ancestry is Scottish/Irish/English which qualifies me to speak as "we" when I talk about the white settlers who came to what is now the USA.) What I didn't know enough about was how we also raped the countryside and paid NO attention to the natural cycles and what really works and doesn't work in our new home.
This book talks about the plant ecology and cycles that happen in the Great Plains area. Buffalo are perfectly adapted to the land and climate. The plants of the prairie thrive in the presence of buffalo, and buffalo thrive on the varying plants and in the extremes of hot and cold that happen here. But we Europeans, who thought we knew best, introduced cattle and fences and over-grazing and feedlots. The cattle don't thrive here; they freeze to death, they ruin the prairie and the plant ecosystem, then we have to shoot them full of chemicals and hormones and whatnot to pretend they are healthy and successful. And the cattle farmers in the Great Plains area have a tough time making a living, trying to do something that doesn't really work.
Duh! Buffalo are so great for so many reasons. This book really opened my eyes. Here's one surprising (to me) fact about the consumption of buffalo meat: did you know that it is lower in cholesterol, fat, and calories than even chicken?? I knew it was healthier than beef, but didn't know it was even better than chicken.
Here's another tidbit of information for you: if you decide to start eating buffalo (bison) meat, you have to make sure it is free-range, grass-fed and not feedlot force-fed. Some farmers who switch to raising buffalo still force them through the same process that cattle do: feedlots where they get fake stuff pumped into them... their fear produces adrenaline which changes the meat.... buffalo and cattle do not have the same habits; one animal is wild and the other is domesticated. They should be raised differently. So to get true, healthy, happy, tasty, buffalo meat, one must be sure to get the grass-fed, free-range kind.
I'll bet a lot of people don't know that. I bet even grocers and meatcutters don't know. Maybe Buffalo for the Broken Heart should be a One Book Great Plains States project. Heck, maybe it should be a One Book United States of America project. I think it is a worthwhile book to read! If you are interested, look for it in your library or local independent bookstore. (Had to get that plug in... my sister is an independent bookstore owner.)