#5 Tanka Bar: for the Buffalo, the Land, and the People

In this episode, the second of four in this series on the bison in the Great Plains, we visit the lands of the Oglala Lakota in the Black Hills of Western South Dakota, where we met with Mark Tilsen, cofounder of Tanka Bar.   Tanka Bar, a company owned and operated by the Oglala Lakota of the Pine Ridge Reservation, created the first commercial bison meat and fruit bar based on one of their sacred foods, called wasna.  The mission of Tanka Bar is to restore the Pine Ridge landscape and economy by bringing back the buffalo.

Before the interview with Mark, I also share a bit more history of the time of the buffalo slaughter.  I feel it’s useful to have some understanding of the creation of the wounds that Tanka Bar is working to help heal.

There’s also a bonus episode that wove with the buffalo investigation in the Black Hills, that will be released a few days after this one. We’ll look at historic and and current natural resource struggles in lands granted by treaty to the Oglala Lakota in 1868.  It’s much the same story as the extermination of the buffalo that we dive deeper into in this episode, but has enough non-buffalo complexities that I decided to give it it’s own space in a bonus episode.  It includes an interview with Cheryl Rowe of Dakota Rural Action.

You can find out more about Tanka Bar and the Tanka Fund at the following links:

Tanka Bar

Tanka Fund

Most of the historical quotes in the introduction came from sources referenced by the paper by David D. Smits, entitled The Frontier Army and the Destruction of the Buffalo: 1865-1883.

The letter from General Sherman to Buffalo Bill can be found in the William F. Cody Archive and many other places.

The name of James C. Scott’s book that I read a couple sections from in the introduction is Against the Grain.  I recommend it.

You can find the album, Under a Buffalo Sun, containing John Trudell’s Buffalo Wild poem, and another album of Mignon and Good Shield’s entitled Soul-A-Mente.

Under a Buffalo Sun

Soul-A-Mente

You can find the New Food Economy article Mark mentions in the update interview here.

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Mark Tilsen outside his home in the Black Hills

Michael DiGiorgio recorded the banjo-bird jams I’m using in the intro and ending. You can find his amazing nature art at https://www.mdigiorgio.com. Mike says that if you’d like to buy the album of his nature-banjo jams, you can find his email on his website and he can mail you a CD.

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