The Buffalo Roundup: The Heart of the Wild West
By: Governor Kristi Noem
September 29, 2023
Teddy Roosevelt is one of my favorite presidents. He embodied the spirit of Freedom. He cared about stewarding the land. And he appreciated the beauty of this nation. President Roosevelt said, “the farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom.” That is exactly what South Dakota offers.
President Roosevelt spent a lot of time in the Dakotas during his life. And there is one event that we do every single year here in South Dakota that I just know he would have loved. It is one of my favorite days of the years – the Buffalo Roundup.
The Buffalo Roundup really shows what South Dakota is all about. It incorporates South Dakota’ culture, heritage, outdoor spirit, and our passion for Freedom. The event takes place every year on the last Friday in September in Custer State Park. Custer State Park is home to a herd of about 1,400 bison. Rounding up these bison is not only a spectacular sight to see, but it is also critical to maintaining a strong and healthy heard.
Back in 2016, when I was serving as South Dakota’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives, I led the efforts to name the bison as America’s National Mammal. This was a huge accomplishment, especially after the bison came so close to extinction. It is estimated that the bison population in the United States reached an all-time low in 1884, when fewer than 1,000 were left in the country. Now, after more than a century of conservation efforts, there are more than 500,000 bison in the United States!
The Custer State Park bison herd has contributed greatly to those efforts. When South Dakota legend Scotty Philip started the herd, it was one of the few herds left in America. Because of that long history of strong management, our herd has some of the best genetics in the country. Each year, we sell some of these bison to intersperse their genetics with those of other herds to improve the health of the species’ population across the nation.
The state of South Dakota is a special place – and the Buffalo Roundup is truly a testament to the spirit of conservation in our state. We are a state still believes in the beauty of the American Dream. We believe that you can pull yourself up by the bootstraps, put in a little hard work, and make anything possible for yourself. We still prioritize American values. Our small-town way of life makes people feel comfortable – like they’re back somewhere safe and familiar.
We value tradition, and we value the great outdoors. All of this is why we continue to host the Buffalo Roundup year after year. The Roundup is a tradition unlike any other. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you can only get here in South Dakota.
Teddy Roosevelt talked about the “lonely freedom” of the wilderness. Well, South Dakota is the Freest state in America – so I can’t think of a better place to enjoy the Freedom of the Wild West than right here.