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Wichita Mountains Bison Centennial

In a historic day in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, over 130 bison headed for their new homes.  People from all over the country gathered for the annual bison auction.  But, it wasn't the only reason that this day was so special.  It's been 100 years this month since the Wichita Mountains saw its first bison.  So, as Oklahoma is celebrating its centennial, so are the bison at the refuge at the 37th Annual Bison Auction.

Native American Dancers brought back a long time tradition - The Comanche Buffalo Dance.  "We're giving thanks to the buffalo for the spirit that it's given and placed in us to be where we are today," says Native American Drummer Jarvis Poahway. 

The Comanche people hunted buffalo for all their needs but in 1900 all but 500 were gone.  In 1907, fifteen American bison arrived in Oklahoma from the Bronx Zoo in New York.  Today, there are over 800 head of cattle on the 59,000 acres of the refuge.  This is why the refuge held the centennial celebration with the annual auction.

"This gets people out here involved in the refuge to where they can actually see what we have and how beautiful it is and really appreciate and support the refuge," says Wildlife Refuge Biologist Joe Kimball.  There were 139 bison for sale today and people traveled from Minnesota, New Mexico and Austin Texas to attend the event.

Keith Glowka has been coming to the auction for the last six years and says it's a big part of his life.  "The buffalo are pretty special to me," he says.  "When I retired from teaching elementary school, I started making my living by making Native American style flutes from the buffalo horns."

The bison were on display for all to see - including school kids from Lawton, Cache and even Oklahoma City.  "It's really nice to see a lot of people, a lot of interest coming out here and it makes everybody feel good that they're doing a job that people appreciate," says Glowka.  "And we try very hard to do a good job for the people."

It was a great day to celebrate the return of the bison to our land.  "It felt pretty awesome...the spirituality involved in it, it's just awesome," says Glowka.  All proceeds from the auction go to helping other refuges across the country.  Here's to another 100 years of bison on the Great Plains.

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