Last chat about National Buffalo MuseumOn Aug. 26, Felicia Sargeant, museum director of the National Buffalo Museum, spoke at the final Front Porch Chat of the season. She said the National Buffalo Museum, made of cedar logs and cedar shakes, was built in 1959.
On Aug. 26, Felicia Sargeant, museum director of the National Buffalo Museum, spoke at the final Front Porch Chat of the season. She said the National Buffalo Museum, made of cedar logs and cedar shakes, was built in 1959.
It was formerly the ASCS building, located at the current site of the Dakota Central Telecommunications offices. The building was moved to its current site south of Frontier Village and was opened to the public in June of 1993.
The World’s Largest Buffalo was also constructed in 1959. Live buffalo were brought here from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 1991. The museum’s first white buffalo, White Cloud, was born July 10, 1996, on a private farm in Michigan, N.D.
White Cloud joined the herd through a special arrangement in 1997. She has been certified a true albino bison: she has pink eyes and tongue, gray horns and hooves and doesn’t have any cattle genes.
White Cloud is 16 years old, middle aged for buffalo, which have a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years. According to a special lease agreement with her owners, when she dies, she will be stuffed and mounted for display at the museum.
Sargeant said the museum can only maintain 30 buffalo. There are 15 on each side of Interstate 94, and though there is a tunnel under the Interstate, the buffalo choose not to go through the tunnel. The animals are free-range and are not given special feed, but seem content within the pasture area and receive supplemental hay only when necessary.
Buffalo use wallows (areas of bare dirt) to cover their hair and skin with dust; this helps ward off insects and adds to their comfort. There are wallows in several parts of the pastures; two of them near the museum provide visitors with a view of the buffalo rolling in them during the hot summer months.
Periodically the museum brings in new buffalo from Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This is done to maintain the genetic diversity of the herd and to bring in younger bulls to replace the very large old bulls that can damage other members of the herd.
Sargeant said the museum doesn’t buy the buffalo from Theodore Roosevelt National Park but pays a share of the cost of the helicopter used to round up the animals living freely in the park. Those older animals that are culled from the museum’s herd to maintain a constant herd size are sold to private parties for inclusion in their herds. The live herd is given an annual health check and other veterinary attention as needed.
The National Buffalo Museum has a special children’s room where children can touch and feel various items related to buffalo. Sargeant also goes into classrooms in the area with her children’s discovery trunk.
Sargeant said Native Americans and other people of the Plains used all parts of the buffalo for various purposes. She brought her children’s discovery trunk and allowed her adult audience to touch and feel some of the parts while she explained how the parts were used. Some of the items in the trunk were: horns (used for cups and powder horns), teeth (used for ornamentation), hair (used for yarn and doll stuffing), rib bones (knives), tail (ornamentation and fly swatters), and a bladder (water canteen). Everyone is invited to attend the National Buffalo Museum to see the story of this animal that was closely tied to the lives of the native peoples that lived in this region.
The Stutsman County Museum Board thanked all the speakers, Gate City Bank (for providing cookies, cups and napkins), and The Jamestown Sun for allowing the museum to share the Front Porch Chats for another season. Although the chats are done for the season the museum is open to the public through the month of September to accommodate school tours and field trips.