The National Buffalo Museum opened in June of 1993 and has since been dedicated to preserving the history of the bison and promoting the modern bison business.
In 1991, the North Dakota Buffalo Foundation (NDBF) (d.b.a. the National Buffalo Museum) formed to start a herd of bison that would graze in the pasture just below the “World’s Largest Buffalo” monument in Jamestown, ND. Around the same time, the National Buffalo Foundation was looking for a facility to house and display numerous accumulated bison-related objects, artwork, and historical memorabilia from the bison business. Thanks to tireless advocacy from the founding board members of the NDBF, many of whom were themselves bison producers, the first five animals in this herd came from Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the site of that first small herd became the home of the National Buffalo Museum.
Many museum visitors ask us why the museum is named the National Buffalo Museum and not the National Bison Museum. The reason is simple. When the museum opened, the more popular name for the American bison was “buffalo.” Historically, “buffalo” has been the more popular name in American culture. For example, a common American coin that features a bison is popularly known as the “buffalo nickel.” The bison is the animal that helped make Buffalo Bill Cody famous. It is only recently that advocates for bison restoration have been promoting the use of the scientific name, bison, to distinguish it from water buffalo meat. These two products have completely different taste profiles and nutritional values. Stewards of the American bison want consumers to understand which product they are eating or feeding their pets.
Through nearly three decades, the museum has evolved and continues to strive to represent an inclusive story of the North American bison, no matter what name it is known by.