** Buffalo Nation, The People are depending upon you,
so we pray you will be healthy. **
“Ha ti wa-ka i ta-ra-ha ha re ra
Ku-ra ra wa-ku-e-ru ta-ra-ha
Re ra ta-ra-ha re ra ta-ra-ha
Re ra ta-ra-ha a re ra ra u-ra
We ri-ku sa ta-ra’-ha ha re ra
Ta-ra-ha re ra ta-ra-ha re ra
Ta-ra-ha a re ra”
“Listen, he said, yonder the buffalo are coming,
These are his sayings, yonder the buffalo are coming
They walk, they stand, they are coming,
Yonder the buffalo are coming.”
** Let us honor the bones of those who gave their flesh to keep us alive.**
-Buffalo Alter Prayer-
** We recognize the bison is a symbol of our strength and unity, and that as
we bring our herds back to health, we will also bring our people back to health.**
-Fred DuBray, ITBC President-
A long time ago there were no stones on the earth. The mountains, hills, and valleys were not rough, and it was easy to walk on the ground swiftly. There were no small trees at that time either. All the bushes and trees were tall and straight and were at equal distances. So a man could travel through a forest without having to make a path.
At that time, a large buffalo roamed over the land. From the water, he had obtained his spirit power–the power to change anything into some other form. He would have that power as long as he only drank from a certain pool.
In his wanderings, Buffalo often travelled across a high mountain. He liked this mountain so much that one day he asked it, “Would you like to be changed into something else?”
“Yes,” replied the mountain. “I would like to be changed into something nobody would want to climb over.”
“All right,” said Buffalo. “I will change you into something hard that I will call ‘stone.’ You will be so hard that no one will want to break you and so smooth that no one will want to climb you.”
So Buffalo changed the mountain into a large stone. “And I give you the power to change yourself into anything else as long as you do not break yourself.”
Only buffaloes lived in this part of the land. No people lived here. On the other side of the mountain lived men who were cruel and killed animals. The buffaloes knew about them and stayed as far away from them as possible. But one day Buffalo thought he would like to see these men. He hoped to make friends with them and persuade them not to kill buffaloes.
So he went over the mountain and travelled along a stream until he came to a lodge. There lived an old woman and her grandson. The little boy liked Buffalo, and Buffalo liked the little boy and his grandmother. He said to them, “I have the power to change you into any form you wish. What would you like most to be?”
“I want always to be with my grandson. I want to be changed into anything that will make it possible for me to be with him, wherever he goes.”
“I will take you to the home of the buffaloes,” said their guest. “I will ask them to teach the boy to become a swift runner. I will ask the water to change the grandmother into something, so that you two can always be together.”
So Buffalo, the grandmother, and the little boy went over the mountain to the land of the buffaloes.
“We will teach you to run swiftly,” they told the boy, “if you will promise to keep your people from hunting and killing buffaloes.”
“I promise,” said the boy.
The buffaloes taught him to run so fast that not one of them could keep up with him. The old grandmother could follow him wherever he went, for she had been changed into Wind.
The boy stayed with the buffaloes until he became a man. Then they let him go back to his people, reminding him of his promise. Because he was such a swift runner, he became a leader of the hunters. They called him Eagle Wing.
One day the chief called Eagle Wing to him and said to him, “My son, I want you to take the hunters to the buffalo country. We have never been able to kill buffaloes because they run so very fast. But you too can run fast. If you will kill some buffaloes and bring home the meat and the skins, I will adopt you as my son. And when I die, you will become chief of the tribe.”
Eagle Wing wanted so much to become chief that he pushed from his mind his promise to the buffaloes. He started out with the hunters, but he climbed the mountain so fast that they were soon left far behind. On the other side of the mountain, he saw a herd of buffaloes. They started to run in fright, but Eagle Wing followed them and killed most of them.
Buffalo, the great one who got his power from the water, was away from home at the time of the hunt. On his way back he grew so thirsty that he drank from some water on the other side of the mountain not from his special pool. When he reached home and saw what the hunter had done, he became very angry. He tried to turn the men into grass, but he could not. Because he had drunk from another pool, he had lost his power to transform.
Buffalo went to the big stone that had once been a mountain.
“What can you do to punish the hunter for what he has done?” he asked Stone.
“I will ask the trees to tangle themselves so that it will be difficult for men to travel through them,” answered Stone. “I will break myself into many pieces and scatter myself all over the land. Then the swift runner and his followers cannot run over me without hurting their feet.”
“That will punish them,” agreed Buffalo.
So Stone broke itself into many pieces and scattered itself all over the land. Whenever the swift runner, Eagle Wing, and his followers tried to run over the mountain, stones cut their feet. Bushes scratched and bruised their bodies.
That is how Eagle Wing was punished for not keeping his promise to Buffalo.
Once upon a time, when the Field-Mouse was out gathering wild beans for the winter, his neighbor, the Buffalo, came down to graze in the meadow. This the little Mouse did not like, for he knew that the other would mow down all the long grass with his prickly tongue, and there would be no place in which to hide. He made up his mind to offer battle like a man.
“Ho, Friend Buffalo, I challenge you to a fight! “he exclaimed in a small, squeaking voice.
The Buffalo paid no attention, thinking it only a joke. The Mouse angrily repeated the challenge, and still his enemy went on quietly grazing. Then the little Mouse laughed with contempt as he offered his defiance. The Buffalo at last looked at him and replied carelessly:
“You had better keep still, little one, or I shall come over there and step on you, and there will be nothing left! “
“You can’t do it! “replied the Mouse.
“I tell you to keep still,”insisted the Buffalo, who was getting angry. “If you speak to me again, I shall certainly come and put an end to you! “
“I dare you to do it! “said the Mouse, provoking him.
Thereupon the other rushed upon him. He trampled thc grass clumsily and tore up the earth with his front hoofs. When he had ended, he looked for the Mouse, but he could not see him anywhere.
“I told you I would step on you, and there would be nothing left! “he muttered.
Just then he felt a scratching inside his right ear. He shook his head as hard as he could, and twitched his ears back and forth. The gnawing went deeper and deeper until he was half wild with the pain. He pawed with his hoofs and tore up the sod with his horns. Bellowing madly, he ran as fast as he could, first straight forward and then in circles, but at last he stopped and stood trembling. Then the Mouse jumped out of his ear, and said:
“Will you know now that I am master? “
“No! “bellowed the Buffalo, and again he started toward the Mouse, as if to trample him under his feet. The little fellow was nowhere to be seen, but in a minute the Buffalo felt him in the other ear. Once more he became wild with pain, and ran here and there over the prairie, at times leaping high in the air. At last he fell to the ground and lay quite still. The Mouse came out of his ear, and stood proudly upon his dead body.
“Eho! “said he, “I have killed the greatest of all beasts. This will show to all that I am master! “
Standing upon the body of the dead Buffalo, he called loudly for a knife with which to dress his game.
In another part of the meadow, Red Fox, very hungry, was hunting mice for his breakfast. He saw one and jumped upon him with all four feet, but the little Mouse got away, and he was terribly disappointed.
All at once he thought he heard a distant call: “Bring a knife! Bring a knife ! “
When the second call came, Red Fox started in the direction of the sound. At the first knoll he stopped and listened, but hearing nothing more, he was about to go back. Just then he heard the call plainly, but in a very thin voice, “Bring a knife!”Red Fox immediately set out again and ran as fast as he could.
By and by he came upon the huge body of the Buffalo lying upon the ground. The little Mouse still stood upon the body.
“I want you to dress this Buffalo for me and I will give you some of the meat,”commanded the Mouse.
“Thank you, my friend, I shall be glad to do this for you,”he replied, politely.
The Fox dressed the Buffalo, while the Mouse sat upon a mound near by, looking on and giving his orders. “You must cut the meat into small pieces,” he said to the Fox. When the Fox had finished his work, the Mouse paid him with a small piece of liver. He swallowed it quickly and smacked his lips.
“Please, may I have another piece?” he asked quite humbly.
“Why, I gave you a very large piece! How greedy you are!”exclaimed the Mouse. “You may have some of the blood clots,”he sneered. So the poor Fox took the blood clots and even licked off the grass. He was really very hungry.
“Please may I take home a piece of the meat?”he begged. “I have six little folks at home, and there is nothing for them to eat.”
“You can take the four feet of the Buffalo. That ought to be enough for all of you!”
“Hi, hi! Thank you, thank you!” said the Fox. “But, Mouse, I have a wife also, and we have had bad luck in hunting. We are almost starved. Can’t you spare me a little more?”
“Why,”declared the Mouse, “I have already overpaid you for the little work you have done. However, you can take the head, too!”
Thereupon the Fox jumped upon the Mouse, who gave one faint squeak and disappeared.
If you are proud and selfish you will lose all in the end.
The buffalo meant a lot of different things to most of America’s Native People’s. They were food and clothing, tools and utinsels, and most of all a Spirit Being blessing the peoples with everything they needed to survive. Here on this page I will try to give you understanding on just how important the buffalo were to our Native Americans, first with my dilog and then with links to other pages on buffalo inculding place’s to buy meat, robes, and other things of the buffalo.
If God was the creator and overseer of life, if the morning star, the moon, and Mother Earth combined their talents to give birth and hope to the Indians, if the sun was dispatcher of wisdom and warmth, then the buffalo was the tangible and immediate proof of them all, for out of the buffalo came almost everything necessary to daily life, including his religious use as an intermediary through which the Great Spirit could be addressed, and by which the Spirit often spoke to them. In short, the buffalo was life to the Plains Indians until the white man’s goods and ways first eliminated and then replaced the animal.
Understandably, then a major part of Indian life was oriented in and around the buffalo herds. They moved with them during all but the winter months. The buffalo’s habits and kinds were studied intensely, and in time the Indians put virtually every part of the beast to some utiliarian use. In fact, it is almost astounding to see a graphic breakdown of the uses made of him, of his hide, of his organs, of his muscles, of his bones, and of his horns and hoofs. It is slight wonder that the Indians reverenced the buffalo, related him directly to the Great Creator, and be a natural symbol for the universe, and no doubt the other tribes accorded him a like honor.
There are several matters of magnitude to be considered about the Indians and the buffalo:
First, there is the matter of the buffalo’s place in the sphere of Indian religion. Unfortunately, since this function is connected to so many aspects of the Indians life-way, mention of it must be made in many places, and to cover the entire subject here might cause a vital connection to be missed in another chapter. Therefore, the remarks made at this point will include only what is necessary to round out the total picture.
Second, a visual display of the infinite uses made of the buffalo is essential, for it shows the true importance of the buffalo, and also helps to draw a sharper impression of the creative talents of the Plains Indians.
Third, as one ponders the uses made of the bison, he inevitably wants to know how the Indians themselves were able to make so much of it. The answer is found in ferreting out what the Indians learned over the years about the intriguing types and habits of the buffalo. Ultimately it becomes clear that the buffalo’s sex, age, seasons, and varieties offered advantages to the Indian which were so profuse as to be amazing, to say the least.
Fourth, the buffalo hunting and procurement methods used by the Indians need to be set forth.
And finally, a summary of hide preparation methods will complete the vital picture of Indians and buffalo living in what can only be called an “interdependent” state. After all, the Indians trimmed the excess from the herds season by season, and thus made it easier for their vast remaining numbers to exist. The Indians also provided fresh and succulent grass for the herds by burning off areas of prairie at regular intervals to promote new growth. New grass was always an inducement to the herds, and it was common for some of the tribes in the north to burn off certain sections of the plains each spring.
If a child’s name included the word “buffalo” in it, the Indians believed that the child would be especially strong and would mature quickly. And though a name in itself is not the guarantee of automatic transformation, a “buffalo” child usually fulfilled the expectations of others by striving to accomplish what his name implied. If a warrior was renamed after a vision or great hunting or war accomplishment, and his new name included the word “buffalo,” it meant that the buffalo was his supernatural helper, or that he exhibited the strength of a buffalo, or that he was an extraordinary hunter. In other words, the name desribed the powers of the man.
Societies named after the buffalo had the animal as their patron. The founder’s vision would have featured the buffalo in a prominent way, and quite probably, all or most of the society members would also have seen buffalo in their dreams or visions.
Holy men who saw buffalo in the vision during which they were called to the practice of medicine would seek thereafter to commune with the Great Spirit through the buffalo. This might be done by prayers spoken to living buffalo, and thus sent through them to God. or by the ritualistic use of buffalo parts such as the skull. Then too, their medicine bundles would always feature parts of the buffalo and or stones associated in the mind of the holy man with the buffalo.
Buffalo calling was a constant and essential practice on the Plains. Since the Indians belived that the buffalo existed for their particular use, it followed that the migrations of the herds were according to a divinely controlled pattern. Whenever, then, the season came for the great herds to approach their area, the Indians of each band sought to assist the process by “calling” the buffalo. Any delay in their appearance would, of course, intensify the calling procedures and amplify the medicine rites.
Buffalo often licked themselves, and in the process swallowed some of the hair. Over the years the years the hair sometimes formed itself into a perfectly round ball two inches or more in diameter. Such a ball was a great find, and it immediately became a buffalo calling item for ritual use.
The Blackfeet had special mystic rites for calling buffalo herds into their area. The medicine person employing the rites had the good fortune to own one or more of the unusual stones called “buffalo stones.” These were small reddish-brown rocks from two to four inches long, and naturally shaped something like a buffalo. At least, to an Indian, they looked more like a buffalo than they did anything else. The stones were very rare, and the few that exsited were only discovered now and then in the stream beds by searchers.
All that is known about the rites themselves is that the owner of a stone would invite a group of renowned hunters to his tipi to participate in the calling ceremony. There was no dancing in the preliminary rite, but the group did dance in thanksgiving at the conclusion of a successful hunt.
All the Plains tribes had special songs which they believed would make the buffalo approach their camp areas. And all the tribes had Dreamers and Holymen who would conduct secret rites and then prophesy where the buffalo were most plentiful. The Mandans. after completing a meal, would present a bowl of food to a mounted buffalo head in belief that it would send out messages to living animals, telling them of the Indians’ generosity, and thus inducing them to come closer. They also prayed constantly to the Great Spirit to send them meat, and sometimes pleaded with a mystic “Spiritual Great Bull of the Prairie” to come to them with his cow, and with the herd close behind, naturally!
The Holymen of the Sioux, Assiniboines, and Pawnees used buffalo skulls in rituals designed to entice the herds, and the carcass of the first animal slain in a large hunt was always sacrificed to God. On occasion, Comanche hunters would find a horned toad and ask it where the buffalo were. They believed the toad would scamper off in the direction of the nearest herd. Or the same hunters would watch a raven flying in a circle over their camp and caw to it, thinking it would answer by flying off toward the animals cloaest to them. They also held a nighttime hunting dance before the men left the main camp to look for buffalo. After the hunt there was a buffalo-tongue ritual and feast which they celebrated as a thanksgiving ceremony. Some of the tribes had a unique hoop game which “called” the buffalo as it was played.
In a time of great scarcity, the Mandan White Buffalo Cow Woman Society held a special dance to draw the herds near the village.
George Catlin gives a vivid description of the buffalo calling dance of the Mandan men. The dance lasted three days, with new dancers constantly taking the places of those who became exhusted. About fifteen men danced at a time, each wearing a huge mask made of an entire buffalo’s head, the only change being the insertion of wooden eyes and nosepieces with slits in them to admit air to the dancer. Painted bodies and a buffalo tail tied at the back to a belt completed the costume. Each dancer imitated a buffalo, and when exhausted, sank to the ground. In moments another dancer took his place while he was dragged from the circle of dancers by the bystanders, and ceremonially skinned and butchered.
The Hidatsa tribe had a calling dance in which six elderly men played the parts of buffalo bulls. After dancing for a time in imitation of the bulls, they tasted dishes of boiled corn and beans. Following this, empty bowls were given to them, and each man acted as though he was eating the wonderful buffalo meat which would shortly fill the bowls when the buffalo responded to the rite and came into hunting range.
Speaking generally, when considering the energy put into buffalo calling, it should be recognized that there were many reasons to want the buffalo herds to come close to the camps. First, the transportation problems was a monumental one, since the enormous quantities of meat and heavy hides were not easy to carry from the hunting areas to the camp sites. Second, it was much safer to hunt in one’s own domain. In particular, the penetration of enemy territory or even of contested areas was extremely hazardous. A Ponca spokesman, in describing the plight of his tribe to George Catlin, tearfully stated that the Ponca warriors, who were few in number, were being cut to pieces by the more numerous Sioux because they had to go into Sioux territory to obtain buffalo. And third, without the ever present buffalo all the Indians could not have survived, at least on the Great Plains.
No one knows how many buffalo there were in North America before the White men came. Most estimates for peak period of Plains Indian occupation range from sixty to seventy-five million head. As late as 1830, White hunters guessed that forty million were left.
Although the larger herds lived on the Plains, smaller ones also ranged from northern Georgia to Hudson Bay and from the Appalachians to the Rockies and beyond.
The buffalo of North America were not all the same color or size. The Plains type, with which everyone is familiar, was not the largest. The wood buffalo, found in small herds in the eastern parts of the United States and Canada, which some called the Pennsyvania buffalo, was slightly larger. Although it grazed on the open prairies in the summer, it generally sought the protection of the woods in the winter. Another type was the less common mountain buffalo of the Rockies and Pacific coast region. It was smaller, but more fleet than the Plains bison. Unfortunately, both the wood and the mountain buffalo became extinct before scientists could learn much about them.
The need for grass and water kept the buffalo on the move most of the time. After a herd had consumed the grass on one part of the range, it was forced to move on to fresh forage. With luck, about every third day the animals would come to water, and did their drinking mostly at night. hunters said that when a herd left a river and started up a canyon, the sound was like distant thunder and often could be heard for miles.
Some eary explorers believed that the herds made long seasonal migrations, moving from south to north in the spring and returning in the fall. Others maintaned that the herd movements were more local. George Catlin, who went west in 1832 to study and paint the indains, decided that the buffalo seemed to enjoy travel, but were not truely migratory. “They graze in immence herds and almost incredible numbers at times,” he wrote. “They roam over vast tracts of country, from east to west and from west to east as often as from north to south.”
A early writer named J.A.Allen supported Catlin’s view. He noted that, while most of the buffalo abandoned the hot Texas plains in the summer for those farther north, “it is improbable that the buffalos of Saskatchewan ever wintered in Texas. Doubtless the same individuals never moved more than a few hundred miles in a north and south direction, the annual migration being merely a moderate swaying northward and southward of the whole mass with the changes of the season.”
Apparently, there were at least two, and probably three, herds moving in smaller circles within their own areas, north, south, and central. This took some of them in and out of each tribal area more than once during the year, whereas if the single herd idea applied they would have passed through many tribal domains but once.
Ordinarily the herd moved at a leisurely pace, with each animal nibbling at tufts of grass as it went along. Yet the buffalo was easily frightened, and sudden movement, sound, or unusual oder could cause a terrifying and crushing stampede. A wind-blown leaf, the bark of a praire dog, or the passing shadow of a cloud could put the entire herd into a headlong flight. Even a small grass fire could send them running for many miles. The smell or sight of man would do the same, and for this reason the Indians evolved some careful and strict regulations to govern the great annual hunts.
The size, apperance, and grazing habits of the buffalo help us to understand why early explorers referred to it as a cow. To them, its ony difference from cattle lay in its having a hump on its back, a larger head and front legs, and a mat of purple shaggy hair over its foreparts.
The color of the buffalo’s coat varied with its age, and from one geographical area to another. Some southern buffalo were tawny, and others were almost black. Farther north, one might find an occasional blue or mouse colored buffalo, or even a pied or spotted one. Rarest of all was the albino, of which few existed, and even they varied from dirty gray to pale cream.
The Indian warriors set a high value on a white buffalo robe and were reluctant to part with one. A certain Cheyenne war chief wore a white robe when he led his warriors into battle, and believed that it would shield him from all harm. Some of the holy men used white robes in their medical curing rituals.
To a unschooled person, all buffalo in a herd looked alike. But there were many kinds and sizes, and their hide qualities varied considerably with the seasons. In fact, one had to know a great deal about them to utilize their fullest capabilities.
Mating time was in July. Throughout the winter the bachelor breeding bulls, grouped in small and large herds, roamed peacefully by themselvess. But about mid-july, when the running season began, they joined the cows. During this period the bull buffalo became exceedingly vicious toward one another, and toward any Indians foolish enough to approach them. Any cow in breeding condition would be closely followed by a pugnacious bull, and “tending” pairs would be a common sight on the outskirts of every band until late August.
Whenever bulls contend with each other for the right to a cow, the rest of the herd circled restlessly around the two antagonists. Other bulls would be pawing dirt and bellowing deep down in their throats, while the cows looked on as avid spectators. Battles were often to the death, and the larger and stronger animals were usally the victors. Bulls fought forehead to forehead, roaring, heaving, and seeking to push each other backward. Much of the fighting was ritual, but the moment one gave up the jousting and turned away he was promptly gored. A swift move and quick turn of the head, left a long, deep gash in his side. The intestines immediately came out, and the loser died. The victor paid no attention to the victim after the fatal hook was made, and the cow in question was calmly escorted away. Such battles were so intence while they were going, though, that bulls would ignore human beings. Even though the main herd fled at the approach of a mounted Indian, the titanic gladiators fought on. So Indian onlookers freequently saw these herculean contest at close range, and were able to tell about them later on.
Strangely enough, old bulls mated with young cows, and young bulls with the matured cows. In the early part of the mating season, perhaps to advoid fighting, a bull with one or more cows would stay in deep coulees which were some distance from the large part of the herd.
From late summer to early fall, the buffalo grouped together in small and large herds. Bull fights at this time were rare. With grass at its plentiful best, the buffalo became fat and robust. Long lines made their leisurely way to water and back again to the feeding grounds. Usually they traveled single file, and the primary buffalo trails became three or more feet deep in places.
In late summer the animals were at ease. As the heat of the day increased they would lie down a great deal. The hunting days of the Indians tribe had not yet come, and the warriors only disturbed them on rare occasions for a supply of fresh meat.
When a herd crossed a large river, such as the Missouri, they swam in small groups, one group after the other. Because of the vast size of the herds, the leaders were already across and on their way to new feeding grounds before the last of the groups had moved up to the river. Often several hours had passed before the last group was across. When buffalo were swimming they occasionally blew water through their nostrils. This made a peculiar noise which could be heard underwater for amazing distances. The bellowing of the bulls was itself a sound which could be heard for as much as ten miles!
By October of a good year, all the buffalo were fat and the bulls were still moving with the herds, and it was the best time for tribal hunting. The first days of the hunt were devoted to obtaining all the meat needed for the winter. The chase for robes came later.
In August the bulls left the herds. They gathered in small groups and remained away from the cows until breeding time. During this period the hides from four year old cows were taken. The hair was not prime, but the hides were just right for new lodges.
Buffalo calves, weighing from twenty five to forty pounds at birth, started to drop about April, and continued to appear till May. As far as is known there were no twins, but a Assiniboine named Crazy Bull claimed he saw a two headed unborn calf while butchering a cow which he killed in March. In a chase, calves never ran close to their mothers. All of them fell to the rear, so even if there were twins, they were not discernible as such by the Indians.
The hair of the calves was of a yellowish or reddish color, and remained so until they were from three months to a year old, when they shed this wool and assumed the darker color of the adult buffalo. Calves were called Little Yellow Buffalo. Robes for children were made from these beautiful skins, and they were always tanned with the hair intact.
After an early fall hunt, a large number of motherless and deserted calves were left on the hunting ground. Cows always abandoned their calves as soon as hunters gave chase, and usually they were in the lead of a stampeding herd. The bulls ran just behind the cows and the yearlings and calves brought up the rear. Some hunters claimed that the cows could run faster than any of the other buffalo in the herd, and for this reason were always in the lead. Others said the bulls ran just behind the cows to protect them, and so were behind by choice.They always were right at the heels of the cows.
If a chase took place near a camp and calves were left, boys mounted on yearling ponies and using their small bows and arrows staged exciting miniature chases, to the delight of the warriors who looked on. Very young calves left motherless or deserted after a chase were even known to follow the hunters back to camp.
By fall a healthy buffalo youngster would have increased in size to four hundred pounds, and its coat was long, shaggy, and thickened with heavy wool against the rigors of the cold season soon to come.
The coat of a year old calf turned from its yellowish color to a dark shade. By now he was so fuffy that he looked big for his age. The Assinboines called them “Little Black-haired Ones”, or “Fluffed-haired Ones.”
Two year old buffalo were called “Two Teeth,” having two full teeth at that age. Just before they reached the second year, Their horns emerged beyond their thick hair and commenced to curve. At that age the tips of the horns were blunt, so they were also called “Blunt Horns.”
As they passed the second year, their horns continued to curve, and three year olds were known as “Curved Horns,” because of the short, small, curved horns.
“Small-built Buffalo” was the usual name applied to the four year olds, but they were also called “Four Teeth.” Robes taken from these in January and February were considered the best of all hides. They were not too thick, and the hair was fluffed out, silky, and thick.
Boys were taught that when the robe hunters rode into a herd, they were to look in particular for the “Small-built Ones,” both males and females, with trim and neat bodies, whose coats of hair were like fine fur.
At the age of six, cows were known as “Big Females,” which meant they were mature animals. The bulls of this vintage were called “Horns Not Cracked” because of their fine polished horns, which resulted from hours spent in polishing them by rubbing against low cut banks or trees. Sometimes the bulls pawed down the upper sides of washouts and used the newly exposed and harder surface as a polishing material.
Bull hides were skinned only to the shoulders and cut off, leaving behind the parts that covered the humps. To skin a mature bull, the Assiniboine boy learned how to lay the animal in a prone position and then make an incision along the back, starting a little above and between the tips of the shoulder blades and ending at the tail. When this method of skinning was completed, the hide was in two pieces.
In the more usual way of removing the buffalo hide, and a task ordinarily carried out by the women, the cow buffalo was placed on its side. Shoshone women sliced them along the back from the head to tail. Then they ripped them down the belly and took off the top half of the hide, cutting away all the meat on that side from the bones. After this they would tie ropes to the feet of the carcass and turned it over with their ponies, proceeding then to strip off the skin and flesh from the other side in the same way.
The heavier bull, being more difficult to move, was sometimes heaved onto his belly, with his legs spread. The women would slash him across the brisket and the neck and then fold the hide back so they could cut out the forequarters at the joints. To complete the removal they would split the hide down the middle.
Fat from matured animals, when rendered, was soft and yellowish in color. The tallow from young buffalo was always hard and white.
When buffalo became old, some living beyond the age of thirty years, they shrank in size. The horns, especially those of the bulls, were cracked, craggy, and homely. Old bulls congregated in lonely groups. They remained away from the main herds and usually died of natural causes because no one cared for their meat or hides.
There were some unusual buffalo, and the strange kinds which were noticed during the hunt were the source of animated discussions at gatherings afterward.
As stated previously, the color of the hair on all calves was yellowish, and by the end of the first year had turned almost black. However, a few retained their original color through their lifetime. They were called “yellow ones,” and most of them were females. They were natural size buffalo with an odd color. Robes made from the yellow ones were rare, and a hunter was proud to be able to present one to a prominent person.
White or albino buffalo were rare, and the number taken by different bands was so few it became a matter of historical record to be handed down from generation to generation. Only three were known by the Assinibonie tribe. The hide of one was brought back by a war party, but the heirs did not know whether the party killed the animal or took it from an enemy tribe in a raid. Another was owned by a northern band, who, whenever a momentous occasion arose, used a piece of it to fashion a sacred buffalo horn headdress for a new headman. The third, a heifer, was only seen by several hunters who were returning to camp after a chase. Their horses were tired and no attempt was made to chase it. However, one of their number, whose name was Growing Thunder, followed the herd for some time but finally returned to the group and told how the herd seemed to guard the white one. He tried to get within shooting range of the animal but was unsuccessful. It remained at all times in the middle of the large herd.
Another kind, known as “spotted ones,” had white spots on the underside and on the flanks. Some had small white spots on one or both hind legs, usually near the hoofs. Only females were marked in this way.
The “small-heads” were also females. They were of ordinary size, but had small heads and very short horns.
“Curved-horns” were both male and female. The bulls of this variety had short horns with accentuated curves, while the cow horns were thin, long and curved. The tips, which curved out of sight into the hair, made curved-horn cows look as if they wore earrings.
A certain old buffalo group was called “narrow-cows,” because of the narrow-built bodies. From the side they looked like the rest of the females, but in a chase one was easily detected. In spite of their shape they were usually healthy and the meat was good.
Some females had forelocks, and sometimes hair around the horns, which were short and looked shorn. Since they resembled Indian women who had their hair short in mourning, they were known as “mourning-cows.” These cows were more vicious than other kinds for some reason, and would charge mounted hunters if they came too close. Their meat was good, but it was seldom eaten because of a belief that if anyone who knew the facts ate the meat from a mourning-cow, there would be a death in the family.
This text comes from “The Mystic Warriors of the Plains”
by Thomas E. Mails ISBN 0-7924-5663-7
Snow Bird, the Caddo medicine man, had a handsome son. When the boy was old enough to be given a man’s name, Snow Bird called him Braveness because of his courage as a hunter. Many of the girls in the Caddo village wanted to win Braveness as a husband, but he paid little attention to any of them.
One morning he started out for a day of hunting, and while he was walking along looking for wild game, he saw someone ahead of him sitting under a small elm tree. As he approached, he was surprised to find that the person was a young woman, and he started to turn aside.
“Come here,” she called to him in a pleasant voice. Braveness went up to her and saw that she was very young and very beautiful.
“I knew you were coming here,” she said, “and so I came to meet you.”
“You are not of my people,” he replied. “How did you know that I was coming this way?”
“I am Buffalo Woman,” she said. “I have seen you many times before, from afar. I want you to take me home with you and let me stay with you.”
“I can take you home with me,” Braveness answered her, “but you must ask my parents if you can stay with us.”
They started for his home at once, and when they arrived there Buffalo Woman asked Braveness’s parents if she could stay with them and become the young man’s wife. “If Braveness wants you for his wife, we will be pleased,” said Snow Bird, the medicine man. “It is time that he had someone to love.”
And so Braveness and Buffalo Woman were married in the custom of the Caddo people and lived happily together for several moons. One day she asked him, “Will you do whatever I may ask of you, Braveness?”
“Yes,” he replied, “if what you ask is not unreasonable.”
“I want you to go with me to visit my people.”
Braveness said that he would go, and the next day they started for her home, she leading the way. After they had walked a long distance they came to some high hills, and all at once she turned round and looked at Braveness and said: “You promised me that you would do anything I say.”
“Yes,” he answered.
“Well,” she said, “my home is on the other side of this high hill. I will tell you when we get to my mother. I know there will be many coming there to see who you are, and some may provoke you and try to make you angry, but do not allow yourself to become angry with any of them. Some may try to kill you.”
“Why should they do that?” asked Braveness.
“Listen to what I am about to tell you,” she said. “I knew you before you knew me. Through magic I made you come to me that first day. I said that some will try to make you angry, and if you show anger at even one of them, the others will join in fighting you until they have killed you. They will be jealous of you. The reason is that I refused many who wanted me.”
“But you are now my wife,” Braveness said.
“I have told you what to do when we get there,” Buffalo Woman continued. “Now I want you to lie down on the ground and roll over twice.”
Braveness smiled at her, but he did as she had told him to do. He rolled over twice, and when he stood up he found himself changed into a Buffalo.
For a moment Buffalo Woman looked at him, seeing the astonishment in his eyes. Then she rolled over twice, and she also became a Buffalo. Without saying a word she led him to the top of the hill. In the valley off to the west, Braveness could see hundreds and hundreds of Buffalo.
“They are my people,” said Buffalo Woman. “This is my home.”
When the members of the nearest herd saw Braveness and Buffalo Woman coming, they began gathering in one place, as though waiting for them. Buffalo Woman led the way, Braveness following her until they reached an old Buffalo cow, and he knew that she was the mother of his beautiful wife.
For two moons they stayed with the herd. Every now and then, four or five of the young Buffalo males would come around and annoy Braveness, trying to arouse his anger, but he pretended not to notice hem. One night, Buffalo Woman told him that she was ready to go back to his home, and they slipped away over the hills.
When they reached the place where they had turned themselves into Buffalo, they rolled over twice on the ground and became a man and a woman again. “Promise me that you will not tell anyone of this magical transformation,” Buffalo Woman said. “If people learn about it, something bad will happen to us.”
They stayed at Braveness’s home for twelve moons, and then Buffalo Woman asked him again to go with her to visit her people. They had not been long in the valley of the Buffalo when she told Braveness that the young males who were jealous of him were planning to have a foot-race. “They will challenge you to race and if you do not outrun them they will kill you,” she said.
That night Braveness could not sleep. He went out to take a long walk. It was a very dark night without moon or stars, but he could feel the presence of the Wind spirit.
“You are young and strong,” the Wind spirit whispered to him, “but you cannot outrun the Buffalo without my help. If you lose, they will kill you. If you win, they will never challenge you again.
“What must I do to save my life and keep my beautiful wife?” asked Braveness.
The Wind spirit gave him two things. “One of these is a magic herb,” said the Wind spirit. “The other is dried mud from a medicine wallow. If the Buffalo catch up with you, first throw behind you the magic herb. If they come too close to you again, throw down the dried mud.”
The next day was the day of the race. At sunrise the young Buffalo gathered at the starting place. When Braveness joined them, they began making fun of him, telling him he was a man buffalo and therefore had not the power to outrun them. Braveness ignored their jeers, and calmly lined up with them at the starting point.
An old Buffalo started the race with a loud bellow, and at first Braveness took the lead, running very swiftly. But soon the others began gaining on him, and when he heard their hard breathing close upon his heels, he threw the magic herb behind him. By this time he was growing very tired and thought he could not run any more. He looked back and saw one Buffalo holding his head down and coming very fast, rapidly closing the space between him and Braveness. Just as this Buffalo was about to catch up with him, Braveness threw down the dried mud from the medicine wallow.
Soon he was far ahead again, but he knew that he had used up the powers given him by the Wind spirit. As he neared the goal set for the race, he heard the pounding of hooves coming closer behind him. At the last moment, he felt a strong wind on his face as it passed him to stir up dust and keep the Buffalo from overtaking him. With the help of the Wind spirit, Braveness crossed the goal first and won the race. After that, none of the Buffalo ever challenged him again, and he and Buffalo Woman lived peacefully with the herd until they were ready to return to his Caddo people.
Not long after their return to Braveness’s home, Buffalo Woman gave birth to a handsome son. They named him Buffalo Boy, and soon he was old enough to play with the other children of the village. One day while Buffalo Woman was cooking dinner, the boy slipped out of the lodge and went to join some other children at play. They played several games and then decided to play that they were Buffalo. Some of them lay on the ground to roll like Buffalo, and Buffalo Boy also did this. When he rolled over twice, he changed into a real Buffalo calf. Frightened by this, the other children ran for their lodges.
About this time his mother came out to look for him, and when she saw the children running in fear she knew that something must be wrong. She went to see what had happened and found her son changed into a Buffalo calf. Taking him up in her arms, she ran down the hill, and as soon as she was out of sight of the village she turned herself into a Buffalo and with Buffalo Boy started off toward the west.
Late that evening when Braveness returned from hunting he could find neither his wife nor his son in the lodge. He went out to look for them, and someone told him of the game the children had played and of the magic that had changed his son into a Buffalo calf.
At first, Braveness could not believe what they told him, but after he had followed his wife’s tracks down the hill and found the place where she had rolled he knew the story was true. For many moons, Braveness searched for Buffalo Woman and Buffalo Boy, but he never found them again.
by Hugh Welch
Awa chopsi pono Ka me ta (Horse Crazy)
One day Napi was out on the Plains and became hungry and pleaded to the Great Spirit to help him and give him something to eat. The Great Spirit heard his prayers and said ” Alright Napi, mound up the dirt as big as you can eat”.
Napi started mounding up the dirt and the more he worked the hungrier he got, until he had a big mound and was tired out as he wasn’t used to working so hard for something to eat, as the Creator usually fed him when he asked.
The Creator said ” I see you have become greedy with me helping you too much so I will make the mound of dirt something you can eat, but you will have to learn to kill it”, with that the Great Spirit turned the big mound of dirt into a Buffalo which charged Napi and he started running, more in fear of his life than thinking how to kill it, he ran across the plains, the Buffalo close behind him. Finally he saw a tree and thought if I can make it to the tree I can get away from this beast and then plan how to kill it.
As he neared the tree he saw a big branch sticking out, low enough for him to reach but high enough to get away from the Buffalo. He was running as hard as he could and the Buffalo was gaining on him, just as he reached the tree and swung up the Buffalo ran under him and disappeared. After he got over his fright and came down from the tree he found that the tree was on the edge of a cliff and the Buffalo has ran off it and was laying at the bottom.
The Great Spirit spoke to him and said “Now Napi your greed almost got you hurt but I will give you another chance, I will put Buffalo on the Plains if you share your kills with your brothers the meat eaters and your people”. Which he did and showed the people how to use the Buffalo Jump. One is at Two Medicine River, another on Milk River as well as many others all over the Blackfoot Hunting Grounds.
Napi (Old Man) of the Blackfoot is the equivalent of Iktomni, the trickster, of the Sioux, as is Old Man Coyote of the Crow.
The buffalo formerly ate man. The magpie and the hawk were on the side of the people, for neither ate the other or the people. These two birds flew away from a council between animals and men. They determined that a race would be held, the winners to eat the losers.
The course was long, around a mountain. The swiftest buffalo was a cow called Neika, “swift head.” She believed she would win and entered the race. On the other hand, the people were afraid because of the long distance. They were trying to get medicine to prevent fatigue.
All the birds and animals painted themselves for the race, and since that time they have all been brightly coloured. Even the water turtle put red paint around his eyes. The magpie painted himself white on head, shoulders, and tail. At last all were ready for the race, and stood in a row for the start.
They ran and ran, making some loud noises in place of singing to help themselves to run faster. All small birds, turtles, rabbits, coyotes, wolves, flies, ants, insects, and snakes were soon left far behind. When they approached the mountain the buffalo-cow was ahead; then came the magpie, hawk, and the people; the rest were strung out along the way. The dust rose so quickly that nothing could be seen.
All around the mountain the buffalo-cow led the race, but the two birds knew they could win, and merely kept up with her until they neared the finish line, which was back to the starting place. Then both birds whooshed by her and won the race for man. As they flew the course, they had seen fallen animals and birds all over the place, who had run themselves to death, turning the ground and rocks red from the blood.
The buffalo then told their young to hide from the people, who were going out to hunt them; and also told them to take some human flesh with them for the last time. The young buffaloes did this, and stuck that meat in front of their chests, beneath the throat. Therefore, the people do not eat that part of the buffalo, saying it is part human flesh.
From that day forward the Cheyennes began to hunt buffalo. Since all the friendly animals and birds were on the people’s side, they are not eaten by people, but they do wear and use their beautiful feathers for ornaments.
Another version adds that when coyote, who was on the side of buffalo, finished the race, the magpie who even beat the hawk, said to coyote, “We will not eat you, but only use your skin.”
Long ago, a tribe of Cheyenne hunters lived at the head of a rushing stream, which eventually emptied into a large cave.
Because of the great need for a new food supply for his people, the Chief called a council meeting.
“We should explore the large cave,” he told his people. “How many brave hunters will offer to go on this venture? Of course, it may be very dangerous, but we have brave hunters.” No one responded to the Chief’s request.
Finally, one young brave painted himself for hunting and stepped forth, replying to the Chief, “I will go and sacrifice myself for our people.”
He arrived at the cave, and to his surprise, First Brave found two other Cheyenne hunters near the opening, where the stream rushed underground.
“Are they here to taunt me,” First Brave wondered? “Will they only pretend to jump when I do?”
But the other two braves assured him they would go.
“No, you are mistaken about us. We really do want to enter the cave with you,” they said.
First Brave then joined hands with them and together they jumped into the huge opening of the cave. Because of the darkness, it took some time for their eyes to adjust. They then discovered what looked like a door. First Brave knocked, but there was no response. He knocked again, louder.
“What do you want, my brave ones?” asked an old Indian grandmother as she opened her door.
“Grandmother, we are searching for a new food supply for our tribe,” First Brave replied. “Our people never seem to have enough food to eat.”
“Are you hungry now?” she asked.
“Oh, yes, kind Grandmother, we are very hungry,” all three braves answered.
The old grandmother opened her door wide, inviting the young braves to enter.
“Look out there!” she pointed for them to look through her window.
A beautiful wide prairie stretched before their eyes. Great herds of buffalo were grazing contentedly. The young hunters could hardly believe what they saw!
The old grandmother brought each of them a stone pan full of buffalo meat. How good it tasted, as they ate and ate until they were filled. To their surprise, more buffalo meat remained in their stone pans!
“I want you to take your stone pans of buffalo meat back to your people at your camp,” said the old grandmother. “Tell them that soon I will send some live buffalo.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, kind Grandmother,” said the three young Cheyenne braves.
When the young hunters returned to their tribe with the gifts of buffalo meat, their people rejoiced over the new, good food. Their entire tribe ate heartily from the old grandmother’s three magic pans, and were grateful.
When the Cheyennes waked at dawn the next day, herds of buffalo had mysteriously appeared, surrounding their village! They were truly thankful to the old Indian grandmother and to the Sky Spirits for their good fortune.
In olden days when mostly animals roamed this earth, a Porcupine set out to track some buffalo. He asked the buffalo chips, “How long have you been here on this trail?” He kept on asking, until finally one answered, “Only lately have I been here.”
From there Porcupine followed the same path. The farther he went, the fresher the tracks. He continued until he came to a river; there he saw a buffalo herd that had crossed the ford onto the other side.
“What shall I do now?” thought Porcupine as he sat down. He called out, “Carry me across!” One of the buffalo replied, “Do you mean me?” Porcupine called again, “No, I want a different buffalo.” Thus he rejected each member of the herd, one after another, as each asked. “Do you mean me?”
Finally the last and best one in the herd said, “I will carry you across the river.” The buffalo crossed the river and said to porcupine, “Climb on my back.” Porcupine said, “No, I’m afraid I will fall off into the water.” Buffalo said, “Then climb up and ride between my horns.” “No,” replied Porcupine. “I’m sure I’ll slide off into the river.”
Buffalo suggested many other ways to carry him, but Porcupine protested. “Perhaps you’d rather ride inside of me?” offered the buffalo. “Yes,” said Porcupine, and let himself be swallowed by the buffalo.
“Where are we now?” asked Porcupine. “In the middle of the river,” said the buffalo, After a little while, Porcupine asked again. “We have nearly crossed,” said the buffalo. “Now we have emerged from the water; come out of me!” Porcupine said, “No, not yet, go a little farther.”
Soon the buffalo stopped and said, “We have gone far enough, so come out.” Then Porcupine hit the buffalo’s heart with his heavy tail. The buffalo started to run, but fell down and died right there. Porcupine had killed him. Others in the herd tried to hook Porcupine, but he sat under the buffalo’s ribs, where he could not be hooked. Soon the herd tired and ran on their way.
Porcupine came out and said aloud, “I wish I had something to butcher this nice big buffalo with.” Now, Coyote was sleeping nearby, and woke up and heard him. Coyote went to Porcupine and said, “Here is my knife for butchering.” So they went together to the side of the buffalo.
“Let him butcher who can jump over it,” said Coyote. Porcupine ran and jumped, but only partway over the buffalo. Coyote jumped over it without touching the dead animal, so he began to butcher, cutting up the buffalo.
After a little time, he handed the paunch to Porcupine and said, “Go wash it in the river, but don’t eat it yet.” Porcupine took it to the river, washed it, then he bit off a piece. When Coyote saw what Porcupine had done, he became very angry with him and went after him, “I told you not to eat any of the paunch.” Coyote picked up a club and killed Porcupine and placed him beside the buffalo, and went to his home. Then he told his family, “I have killed a buffalo and I have killed a porcupine. Let us go and carry them home.”
Before Porcupine had come out of the buffalo, he said magic words, “Let a red pine grow here fast.” Then at once red pine began to grow under the meat and under Porcupine. It grew very tall and fast. All of the meat and Porcupine rested at the top of the red pine tree, high in the air, Porcupine magically coming alive again.
Coyote and his family arrived and were surprised that all of the meat was gone. They began to hunt for it. “I wish they would look up,” said Porcupine. Then the smallest child looked up and said “Oh!” The family looked up and saw Porcupine sitting on top of the meat in the tall red pine tree.
Coyote said, “Throw down a piece of the neck, we are very hungry.”
“Yes,” said Porcupine. “Place that youngest child a little farther away. “Yes,” they responded and took him to one side.
“Now make a ring and all hold hands upward,” said Porcupine. So the family joined hands and held them up. Porcupine threw down several pieces of the buffalo meat, killing Coyote and those in the ring. Porcupine then threw down the rest of the buffalo meat, and climbed down the tree.
He took charge of the young coyote and fed him all the meat he desired. Porcupine took all the meat he could carry to his home. He and the young coyote became good friends and helped each other hunt buffalo together for a long, long time.
Many years ago, it is said, a devout young woman rose before dawn to pray. For it is the custom among her people, to rise and greet the morning star; one who does this may receive wisdom and enlightenment to help the people. So this is what she did.
In the distance, past the smoke rising from the nearby creek, she saw buffaloes. Buffaloes, buffaloes, buffaloes, lots and lots and lots of buffaloes! More than any could count, they were moving up the hill, higher and higher, till they reached a spot in the high rock, where they entered.
So it is said that the last of the wild buffalo were not killed by the whiteman; instead, they took refuge in a secret place deep in the mountain. A few buffalo remained on the surface world, to watch and listen. The whiteman’s ways could not last forever. Sooner or later, he would either come to his senses, or destroy himself thru his own errors. And when the time was right, the sentries would call their relatives within the mountain, and they would return. Buffaloes, buffaloes, buffaloes, coming up from the ground, to live on earth again, to live good.
Several years ago, I woke up feeling better than I had felt in all of my life. A survivor of childhood abuse and many mishaps in adulthood, I felt very weak in mind and body, and had often wanted to die. But on that Easter Sunday I woke up from a sacred dream, I’d seen the buffaloes returning, running along the ridge, coming up from the ground. They ran straight toward me, full of strength and life even though some of them were only animated blackened skeletons. They spoke in my heart, told me that they, the Buffalo Nation, (that is, the species) prays all the time, prays for us pitiful humans, and for all living things. They promised me “a life full of life”, if I would remember this, and give whatever I could, whenever I could, and give thanks to the Creator in all things.
For the past year or so I’d heard of buffaloes killed in Yellowstone. Over a thousand killed last year. This outrage went on because of misconceptions over brucellosis, a cattle disease. Public sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of the buffalo and against the slaughter, yet it continued. I did what I could. Fasted and prayed once a week, called the White House to protest. Gave all the money I could spare to groups such as Earthjustice Defense Fund, which recently gained a court order that no more than 100 buffalo would be killed this year, without getting another court order.
100 buffalo. That’s a step in the right direction, but as many said, it’s 100 too many. The buffalo are a people much like ours. They have families and friends and social structures much like ours. (“Only you gotta watch them,” I’d joked to my partners on patrol, “Cos they’re not happy to let the earth alone like we are. Turn your back on them a minute, and they’ve put in a railroad. Next thing you know, they put highways and condos and shopping malls all over the place! And big smelly dumpsters good for diving!”) Seriously, though; how would you feel if 1000 people in your community, your extended family, were killed last year, and this year it was agreed that only 100 would be killed? It would be 100 too many.
On the Internet I’d read of a group called Buffalo Nations, frontlines activists who daily patrol the border of Yellowstone Park to prevent the killing of even one more buffalo. These strong and brave warriors rise daily before dawn, to be with the buffalo all day. So far, no buffalo had died this winter. I read their weekly posts with great admiration, included them in my weekly fasting and prayer, sent them whatever I could. I was thrilled to read in one of their messages, that they needed volunteers. Anyone was invited to come up and work. No special skills needed, just be willing to work.
The buffalo had done so much for me, could I do this small thing for them? I was 41 years old, born and raised in the deep South. No experience with mountains or snow. City born and bred, I’d grown soft. Would I be of any use? Or would it be better just to give them the money I’d spend getting up there?
Here I’d like to remind readers that I speak only for myself; I am not a member or spokesperson for Buffalo Nations or any other group. I wrote to Buffalo Nations, they wrote back. Come on up, they said. They’d be short handed over the winter holiday. Bring warm clothes, be willing to work, and I’d be fine. I prayed over this, had another dream, a dream of war to help protect the Earth. I was by far the oldest one in my cadre, and the only female. In the dream, I’d been chosen for my role because the directors recognised my character, I’d do the right thing.
I woke and remembered what the old ones say: that you can give money, cloth, tobacco, food, other gifts — but these are things that came to you and you can give up. The only thing you really got to give that’s really yours, is your own body, your own self. I went.
Buffalo Nations is composed of a core group who are committed for the long term, and who have been united into a family by a Pipe ceremony conducted last fall by Lakota elder Joe Chasing Horse. Near as I could tell, decisions are made by the core group, led by co-founder Mike Meese. In addition to this core group, there are many volunteers who come from all over the country and stay for as long as they can, a few days, a few weeks, even longer, do whatever they can. Many of these volunteers are longtime enviornmental activists, hardened to this sort of work; others are people like me, unlikely folks driven by visions, that they must give all to help protect the sacred buffalo. People from the North, acclimated to the cold and adept at acts such as skiing and snowmobiling, are most valued; but even someone like me, a middleaged southerner, was welcome, my contributions gladly accepted. Some locals who live near the Buffalo Nations cabin help with patrols as well; and many other locals have agreed to report buffalo sightings outside the park. Buffalo Nations has several offical media spokespersons in their core group; again I emphasise that I am not a spokesperson or even a member of the group. I am only a person who was privledged to work with them for a while, and who has been asked to write up my experiences.
The day after I arrived, I went out on afternoon patrol. There were reports that the buffalo had made their way to Koeltzner’s ranch, a man we called “The Grinch”. Buffalo in Yellowstone Park are of the Mountain subspecies, and it is their instinct to migrate to lower elevatoins when the snow falls. Buffalo don’t suffer from cold like we do; they are the embodiment of life and strength. But they do need to eat, and their customary winter feeding grounds lie outside the park boundaries, along a certain migration route that they’ve developed before time began.
Koeltzner’s ranch is right on their route! Koeltzner had installed a capture facility on his land, and spoke of the buffalos’ movement as “trespassing”. Several times while I was up there, a team of expert skiers entered his property before dawn, to herd buffalo from his land back into the park. In doing this they were trespassing, a misdemeanor, and for this many had stated that they were willing to be arrested. (Aside from trespass and similar acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, the group as far as I know is committed to legal and non-violent acts.) These predawn hazings were especially amazing, since hazing can be a noisy and dangerous operation. The Grinch had already called the DOL, and the buffalo were to be “handled” (probably, shot) later on that day. But somehow, the skiers were able to get into his yard before dawn and drive the buffalo from his land back into the park, and get away with it!
Once on patrol, I and several other volunteers met Koeltzner on the road. We offered to haze the buffalo from his land with his permission; he said he’s “happy with the way the DOL is handling things”, that is, killing buffalo! None of us knew why he was like this. As far as I know, no one has asked.
We called him “the Grinch”, so one evening I proposed a radical action. People change. Pray for him. So we did. In my part of the country, a former Klansman has seen the error of his ways, become a preacher, and now speaks out fearlessly against racism, despite threats and harrassment. There are many other instances like this, some famous in history, others known only to their immediate families and to God. So why not pray for “the Grinch’s heart to grow three sizes”, like in the end of the story? Of course, this does not “under estimate the enemy” as we are often cautioned not to do. He’d called the DOL, had maintained a capture facility, and would probably continue to do so. But now he had an additional option, another way to be!
People can change. Anyone who reads this and believes in these things, please pray for the Buffalo Nations volunteers, for all the people who are helping the buffalo and support the buffalo — and also for “the Grinch”! Since I left, I heard that “The Grinch” has done some very bad things. But I still pray for him. Sometimes these things take time.
Some laugh at prayer, think that people who pray just sit on their ‘somethings’ and don’t do anything else. Many, proud of their own strength, resent the suggestion that prayer does any good at all. But what I’ve seen is this — work alone maintains the status quo, while prayer alone makes people feel better. But together, work and prayer accomplish amazing things.
Have you ever had a day when everything went surprisingly well? Even coincidences seemed to ‘like you’ that day. That’s where prayer comes in. So we must work as hard as we pray, for buffalo are in danger every day, and, with them, many brave young men and women who daily go out into the snow.
And when we pray, we must give thanks, and refrain from speaking ill of anyone, especially those for whom we’ve prayed, as the wise ones all teach us. Why bother pray for someone if you’re going to turn around and talk trash about them? That only cancels out the prayer! The world is full of people all too willing to talk trash, and there will always be those willing to do this. But a person who is committed to prayer must refrain from speaking ill of anyone or anything, and must give thanks as if the prayer were already accomplished. Sure it’s hard — but I’ve often done it, and found that, if done right, it works!
Meantime, the buffaloes that make it out to their winter feeding grounds, are in danger of being shot. Where is the logic here? As a middleaged, city-bred Southerner, I saw how hard it is to move thru snow. Often I had to stay back on the ridge keeping watch, while patrol mates half my age could hike thru deep powder, up the mountain. If I were part of a buffalo herd, I knew I’d be left behind to die. Among the buffalo, those who make it out on their migration routes are the strongest and most intelligent, the most adept, of their kind. To kill them off is to weaken the species.
It was argued that the land within the park boundaries could support only several hundred buffalo, and those who leave the park are obviously beyond the number that the park could support. But those who say this don’t take into account the migratory nature of the buffalo, a nature given them by the Creator long before there were humans, way long before the boundaries of the park were set. They don’t take into account the “winter kill” due to natural causes, or the critical number needed to sustain a population. Above all, they don’t realise what it means, that the buffalo were here first!
Several solutions are proposed, aside from killing the buffalo. Some suggest feeding the buffalo within the park, and closing off snowmobile routes that the buffalo move along to leave the park. Wildlife management experts argue against the longterm wisdom of these proposals. Others, such as the Inter Tribal Bison Cooperative, suggest moving the “surplus” buffalo to live on the Indian reservations, and, last I heard, this is a solution supported by the group Buffalo Nations.
When I heard of this relocation, I thought, it has a lot of merit, and is certainly better than killing them. I know of the interdependance of the Buffalo and Red nations, that when buffalo are strong, Native Americans are strong. I have visited the reses, and know of how Native Americans make respectful use of buffalo in subsistence economy and in their ceremonies. But still, relocation is relocation…
Herding, or hazing, buffalo back into the park is a stopgap solution. The buffalo leave the park to find food, so herding them back in leaves them in danger of starving. Also, there is always danger that the buffalo could turn on the humans, and trample or gore them. After all, humans have always hunted buffalo. How are the buffalo to know that we are now there to help them, especially when our acts amount to harrassment?
One thing that occurred to me is that, since animals are very sensitive to subtle influences, all volunteers refrain from all disturbing influences (loud or negative talk, “cuss words”, certain kinds of music, etc.) while hazing is going on, thus sending peaceful and positive energy to the effort. Also that all refrain from eating red meat, so that they do not give off a scent to the buffalo, of someone going to hunt them. These suggestions may have some merit but it is not known if they work. At any rate, hazing is dangerous and wastes valuable energy. So Buffalo Nations rarely hazes buffalo except when buffalo lives are in immediate danger.
Another proposed interim solution, is to sprinkle the permimeters of where buffalo should not go, with wolf urine. Perhaps the urine of dogs or humans would also do. Especially, the urine of a person who has recently eaten a hamburger! Buffalo avoid wolf urine, but it is not known if they do this by instinct or learning. Neither is it known if dog or human urine would do. But all this is worth a try.
The most radical longterm solution, and the one I like best, is proposed by groups such as Bring Back the Bison, “free passage”. That is, working on laws and community relations, so that the buffalo have safe places to graze outside the park, along their ancient migration route, and so that wildlife protection laws apply to the buffalo whether they are in the park or not. There are National Forest lands surrounding the park, but the problem is that there are cattle grazing permits on those lands. The cattle industry fear that buffalo and cattle grazing on the same land may transmit brucellosis. But the domestic cattle use those lands in the summer while the buffalo use them in the winter. Right now there are negotiations for a federal land swap and federal purchase of additional land just outside the park, for the buffalo. These recent developments are most likely due to the heavy outcry from the public, supporting the efforts of Buffalo Nations and other groups working to save the buffalo. So keep up the good work, folks!
But what do the locals think? Canvassing the neighborhoods around the park, talking with the locals, I’d estimate about 90% of the people there don’t mind buffalo in their yards. Many local supporters have agreed to have brightly colored signs, provided by Buffalo Nations, posted on thier fences. These signs proclaim a “buffalo safe zone” and forbid the shooting or harrassment of buffalo “by order of the landowner”. Such signs may have a peer support effect, so that people may be more apt to post such signs if they see their neighbors do it.
The buffalo are killed, it is said, because of fears of brucellosis. But it is well documented that this fear is unfounded. Brucellosis is difficult to transmit, spread only thru body fluids. It has not been a serious problem in many years, due to modern animal husbandry and food handling practices. The CDC no longer considers it a reportable disease. For more info on this, just fire up your web browser.
So most people around Yellowstone support life and freedom for the buffalo, and of the few who resist, many have misconceptions over brucellosis. Some think it is common in buffalo, but actually it has shown up in only a very small percentage of the buffalo tested. Some think it is airborne or spread thru excrement. But the fact is that brucellosis is usually spread by close contact with a freshly miscarried calf. Such contact is highly unlikely for many reasons — timing of the calving and grazing seasons, predators, etc.
So there is need for public education. In India the people honor the cattle, domesticated relatives of the buffalo. Cattle have free passage there, traffic stops for them while all stop to count their blessings. It could happen here, with lots of work on the legal and community relations fronts, and equal amounts of prayer.
Perhaps a powerful media person may become a friend of the buffaloes. Or maybe a formal debate, carried out by a high school or college debating club and held as a public event, would help people to understand. It is true that the cattle industry is a very powerful thing, controlled by a lot of money. But money is controlled by human interest, and so human interest is even more powerful! There is talk of boycotting Montana beef or even all beef. There are all sorts of approaches that we can take here.
Some things just don’t add up. If brucellosis were such a threat, why is the meat of slaughtered buffalo sold, and the heads and hides auctioned as trophies (often at obscenely low prices)? Why were the remains of over 1000 slaughtered buffalo left lying about for domestic cattle (or anything else) to put their noses into, as fourleggeds tend to do? If the buffalo are such disease hazards, why are they lured out of the park, by putting down fresh hay beside the capture facility? (see recent BN news releases) Why is there no fear over the elk, who also carry it? Brucellosis is associated with undulant fever in humans, an extremely rare disease now that it is common practice to pasteurize milk and cook meat. Kinda makes ya wonder …
But then, if brucellosis is a red herring, why are they really killing the buffalo? There is much speculation, but, speaking only for myself, I think it is to try to prevent the return of Spirit.
Once while out on patrol, my partner picked up a bit of shed-off buffalo fluff and gave it to me as a trophy. I twisted it into a bit of cordage, and looped it around into the familiar shape of the ribbons people wear to show support for various causes. A brown ribbon shows you support life and freedom for the buffalo. What if lots of people were to wear brown ribbons? Then, everyone who believes in the buffalo would recognise one another, and all sorts of efforts to protect the buffalo would flourish. Public opinion would support legal reform, and sheer numbers of people would show that we welcome the buffalo when they return. Maybe the governor of Montana, who, last I heard, supports slaughtering the buffalo even despite the pleas of the Department of the Interior, would have to listen, if each brown ribbon represents a vote for his opponent in the next election! Humans are herd animals, too.
Beautiful country. The people grumble a bit about the cold, the isolation, and many are transplants here. So I ask why do they stay, and they say, it is so beautiful here. You can see the sky without having to look past a bunch of buildings and wires. You can see God everywhere, and everywhere used to be like this. And when you see the lodgepole pine forests you never look at a telephone pole again the same way. And the buffalo belong here. They were here first.
The movement to support the buffalo began around Yellowstone. Residents were outraged at the slaughter last year. I talked for a long time in a bar, with a middleaged lady named Donna who’d actually gotten the ball rolling when she saw buffalo shot just outside her yard several years ago. A red headed white lady, she’d been at a loss for words when trying to explain why the buffalo must live. But she is a very devout person, she says a “little voice” speaks to her when she prays. And her “little voice” told her that, if she wants to make people understand why buffalo are important, she ought to get Native Americans to tell them. So, she got a few Native American elders to address a community meeting, and by the time they got thru there was hardly a dry eye in the place. This led to the founding of Buffalo Nations and several other local buffalo support groups, such as Bison Belong and Bison Action Group. I hope and pray that these different groups can come to work together effectively, because there is much work to be done on many angles, to ensure life and freedom for the buffalo.
Another local resident wrote about how she’d gotten into action. She’d seen several buffalo bulls shot in a certain spot. It took a great many bullets to bring them down. The next day, she watched as nine female buffaloes, the oldest in the lead, walked in single file up to that spot where their men had fallen. They made a circle, and stood there for about 20 minutes, moaning and groaning. Then they all walked away, in single file.
“The buffalo are life,” I’d told a freelance reporter who came to visit us one day. “They are a visible sign of God’s care for us, of Mother Earth’s care for us. For a long time the buffalo have kept the people alive. Now it is time for us to keep the buffalo alive — turnabout’s fair play. Some people say the buffalo are something – something,” I said, for, under the pledges of my visions, I could not speak directly of disease or anything unpleasant, “But no, they are not; they bring strength and life. If people knew what the buffalo are about, they would not get upset about buffalo in their yards. They would realise that buffalo are a blessing.”
Then the reporter turned to a Buffalo Nations member who sat beside me, a young Native American who has been sent by his elders, and vowed to remain with the group in order to represent Native American interests. The tribal member is an adopted relative of Joe Chasing Horse, the spiritual director of Buffalo Nations. The young man told of his tribal beliefs, told the White Buffalo story as he’d heard from his elders. I kept quiet, as is proper. Then, when he was done, I asked the tribal member’s permission to show them both something, and he agreed. So I showed them the paintings I’d made and hung on the wall in a side room, above my sleeping bag. Pictures of White Buffalo Woman, as I’d seen in my dreams. In four and two legged form. Looking back on us. She’s awesome.
That afternoon, a lady who lives near the park called us to haze buffalo from her yard. Buffalo Nations has posted fliers offering free hazing and offering to repair people’s fences for free, so she called. Soon, two other volunteers and I were ready. Also with us was the reporter, who later got his story on us published in the Washington Post on Janurary 1, 1998. The lady had a doghouse made of hay bales, and a water trough for her dogs and horses. No wonder the buffalo had come! “They’re ugly!” interjected her little daughter. I resembled that remark a bit, but said nothing while the woman went on. They’d challenged her dogs. She didn’t want them in her yard, but didn’t want them killed either. Up to now her only option would have been to call the DOL; she was glad we were here.
So, whooping and hollering and walking at a steady pace thru the knee-deep powder, we got the buffalo moving back toward the park. At one point, the buffalo curved their tails upward, turned around, and faced us. When this happens, as it does often, it is a tense moment; they could charge! I prayed hard, while we all kept very still and quiet. Soon the buffalo turned around, and we got them moving again, back into the park. All safe, for now.
On the way back, I laughed to myself, thinking, a hay-bale doghouse indeed! The buffalo are here first! Anyone who doesn’t want buffalo in their yard shouldn’t have moved next to Yellowstone Park! But at least she called us rather than the DOL. She understands a little. Maybe one day she’ll understand more.
Because of my age and background, I was not able to do much hiking or skiing or other heavy outdoor things that others could do. Even so, I went on patrol nearly every day, and, when not on patrol, I worked around the house, refraining from rest until totally exhausted. I saw our work as very sacred, and that patrolling is only part of what we do. To remain strong for patrol, we need good food and a clean house. Also, we went out sometimes on community relations work, canvassing, posting signs, even shovelling snow! On the first morning I was there, I helped a neighbor unload hay bales from his truck; another time, I helped a neighbor fix his car! An action like this needs perhaps three support persons for every one on the front lines, and, as Mother Theresa said, there are many people who can do great things but not many who will do the small things. So I was happy to help with the cooking and cleaning around the house, and considered even the most menial and tedious tasks a great honor. Sometimes in close quarters we’d get on each other’s nerves a bit, but when this happened we’d all remind each other, we are here for the buffalo, everything else is secondary.
Once while we were out on patrol, almost time to go in, when my partner thought he spotted a DOL truck. So we reported this on our CB’s, and swung around back to Horse Butte, where we’d seen buffalo and where we figured the truck was headed. By the time we got there, a dozen or so other people from the house had gotten in gear and drove out there as well. We were ready. But to get out to the hill where the buffalo were was a good several mile hike from the road, and time was of the essence. Just then a caravan of snowmobiles came up! That’s the kind of thing that happened all the time — the ‘luck plane’ was tilted our way.
So we flagged them down and the guide said he’d heard of us, he’d just been telling his group about us! He’d give us a ride to where the buffalo were if we’d say a few words. “I’ll talk with you all night if you give us a ride now,” my partner countered. So he said a little something, then we all hopped on and set out for a wild ride to the hill where the buffalo were. Snowmobilers wear special gear, for the windchill factor can reach -100 F, and we were not dressed for that, mostly dressed for hiking — but we just hung on! Snowmobiling, I’m told, is a bit like riding a spirited horse or an off-road motorbike. Pretty wild. And with the windchill, I’ve heard tell of dry ice (that is, frozen CO2) forming in a person’s snowmoblie helmet, and we didn’t even have helmets! But we’d deal with the frostbite later. For now, no effort was too great for the buffalo.
When we got there, we hopped right off and started hiking up the hill. There were two buffalo on the near side of the hill, and, we figured, a dozen or so on the other side. The stronger hikers made it first to the other side; I went at my own pace up the hill. When my strength flagged, I would look at the two buffalo before me, so strong and sacred, and sing. Then their strength would enter me, thru my eyes and thru the top of my head, and so I was able to keep going. They knew what time it is.
About three-quarters of the way up, I paused, on level with the buffalo. If the DOL showed up on this side, I’d be in a perfect spot to step out and protect the buffalo! I watched the pair, and a vision came, lots and lots and lots of buffalo. As many as the trees on the hills, even more. Coming back, up from the ground. I dropped a bit of tobacco and listened. In the cold, still air, I could hear my companions on the other side of the hill. There were no buffalo there, no DOL either. So they were headed back. My partner had to take a bit of good-natured ribbing for calling a “false alarm”. No, I told them, there are no false alarms, only drills. Any time could be the real thing, so we had to be ready all the time. No buffalo must die this year.
Because of my visions, I was never to speak ill of anyone or anything, because we were with the buffaloes and so everything was sacred. A cross word, even a thought, could weaken us all; hadn’t all patrols gone amazingly well so far? No arrests, no injuries except for a pulled muscle while skiing, no buffalo shot. Lots of help and good vibes from the neighbors. Even the weather had been cooperating; we’d had relatively little snow, and warmer temperatures than usual for that time of year. (Snow drives the buffalo into their migrations.) Who was to say that prayers had nothing to do with our good fortune? There are many things beyond our control, so we apply to a higher power. But the person who orders pizza doesn’t take credit for making the pizza; that credit goes to unseen hands. Millions of people all over the world know that prayer works — although no one can explain why, or why sometimes it seems not to. But at any rate, it never hurts! So I made a mind to remain in a sacred way all the time, singing and praying and keeping good cheer. While resting, I carefully picked a few strands of grass from around the house, and wove it into gifts for the visitors. We had some very important visitors, from the media and from Native tribes. A Japaneese reporter came with his wife and small daughter, so that soon the people in Japan will know of the buffaloes! He and his family came along, taking pictures, when the Forest Service asked us for help hazing a group of buffalo who’d come out of the park and grazed precariously close to the highway!
“Do you know the white bison?” the Japanese reporter asked me. So I told him, from my dreams. I had to. For the kind of dreams I have is the kind they say, you’re supposed to make your visions for all to see. And I feel that soon, a white buffalo, a strong female who would change color for the four directions, may be born to the Yellowstone herd, wild and free — and that soon White Buffalo Woman would come to us in the flesh, in human form! Perhaps knock on the door of the cabin, to help with whatever needed to be done! Wash dishes, clean the bathroom, go out on patrol, whatever. She’d be very beautiful, and have a nice strong magical vibe, like many of the women who work to help protect the buffalo and the earth. And so no one would know who she is at first, until she took out her Pipe ….
Soon, the buffalo could return from the hole in the mountain, just like they’d gone in; for they’d gone into the mountain in that same area of the country! Maybe one day when I was on morning patrol, I’d see this! Buffaloes and buffaloes and buffaloes, wild and free, the humans standing beside them, standing up for their right to live! The earth would be good again!
The buffalo know what is going on, is sacred. Once while we watched them graze on “the Grinch’s” land, my partner remarked, “So oblivious!” But in my dream, they’d told me that they pray all the time. Their peacefulness was not that of oblivion, but like a monk, in deep prayer all the time.
“No,” I said. “They’re in a direct action, too. Think of the sit-ins, the lunch counters at Woolworth’s!” My partners laughed. Much of what I’ve said here may sound very serious but they laugh a lot at Buffalo Nations; humor helps sustain them. And I did all I could to maintain this humor, even if, old and slow as I am, the jokes were often on me. But that was part of my vision, too….
So I worked hard as I could, long as I could, till one day I collapsed while on patrol. Then, I was told, to give up my dream; it was time for me to go.
“Thanks, guys; it’s been real, but now it’s time to go,” I choked out. They had been very kind for having me there, for letting me work and give what I could. It had been such a sacred honor, that I was happy with whatever happened to me. My only regret is that I was not able to give more. Then I was gone.
The prophecy is that when the old buffalo loses his hair and falls from his last leg, the people of the four directions and the seven directions would come and give all they could, to renew the buffalo and renew the earth. And behind him, if all went well, there would be another one, young and strong. If the sacred ones so pleased, the young one would be female, for life comes from woman, and she’d be the color of snow, pure as new hope. In my dreams she is not an albino, for albinism is a weakness; the sacred white buffalo is the embodiment of “a life full of life”. She would change colors, to honor the full circle of directions, the dark and the light, all the ways we can be. And so when she came on four legs, they called her Miracle, and I’ve seen her and she’s real. I hear she’s been seen on the roads, walking on two legs, appearing weak and in need of help, but this is only a test … and wherever she goes, she leaves behind a small red Pipe ….
I’ve seen White Buffalo in my dreams, a beautiful young woman, powerful and sacred, who’d brought the Pipe and the knowledge of the right way to live. And in my dream, the Pipe she brought is not to be feared and kept wrapped up and put away. It is to pray for one another in love and truth, and to use in the ceremonies that would come to the people in vision. And in time to come, when the Pipe was worn out and the right ways forgotten and the ceremonies lost their meaning, she promised she’d be back, to give us a new Pipe and remind us again the right way to live, renew in us the power and wisdom, and new visions and ceremonies would come, to make the earth good again.
I’d seen her in my dreams, resting on the earth, big as a mountain, strong and beautiful and magic. I’ve seen her in the sun, holding back the arm of the avenging angel, promising to try once again to help us understand. I’ve seen her made of lightning, singing with the thunder, singing of how soon it’s time to get started, time to go. I’ve even seen her walk backwards, looking on us over her left shoulder, wondering if we’d recognise her when she returns, if we’d welcome her, if we’d remember.
So we all come from the four and the seven directions, to give what we can. Some of the people of Buffalo Nations are so strong, they can ski all day, and wade in waist-deep icy creeks. Many are young enough to be my sons and daughters, the second generation after the seventh, “tye-dye diaper babies” with mothers like me. The people of Buffalo Nations are our warriors, not like military servicemen, but nonviolent warriors putting their lives on the line for the Earth and all that live on her. They are on the front lines; other individuals and groups are also working in many areas — front lines, legal, writing, fund raising, prayer, education, etc. The different groups with different approaches must not see themselves as in competition with each other; a wide variety of work is needed here. All those who are working to protect the buffalo are to be admired and supported in any way we can.
Since I’ve left, I’ve heard that things have gotten much harder. “The Grinch” used his car to run over a volunteer (fortunately, injuring only his foot); another volunteer had her car tampered with. The snow has gotten waist-deep. There have been several arrests, and, in a recent update, I’ve read that buffaloes have been lured to the capture facility and trucked away, most likely, for slaughter. In early February, six buffalo, three yearlings and three cows, were shot at Horse Butte, the same place where I had a vision. Thru all this, Buffalo Nations volunteers struggle to protect the buffalo, and no hardship is considered too great. So we should support this and all related efforts in any way we can, because the buffalo are coming back, and it is up to us to be worthy of them, to pay attention.
Buffalo Field Campaign – Updates
the only group in the Field, 365 days a year,
protecting the last wild buffalo
Thrust before the Moon (Buffalo Song)
There is a man there
somewhere that man is right there
he is laying down
he is stretched down there
he is wrapped in skins
he is wrapped in songs
he works with feathers
he carries songs that have been singing
dropped before the moon can rise
dropped where the corn is growing
he is wrapped in skins
he is wrapped in songs
he lives deep under the drum
before the moon can rise
right there where he is
BUFFALO REPRESENT THEIR SPIRIT
The American buffalo, also known as bison, has always held great meaning for American Indian people. To Indian people buffalo represent their spirit and remind them of how their lives were once lived, free and in harmony with nature. In the 1880’s, the white man recognized the reliance Indian Tribes had on the buffalo. Thus began the systematic destruction of the buffalo to try to subjugate the western Tribal Nations.
HEAL THE SPIRIT
Without the buffalo, the independent life of the Indian people could no longer be maintained. The Indian spirit, along with that of the buffalo, suffered an enormous loss. At that time, Tribes began to sign treaties with the U.S. Government in an attempt to protect the land and the buffalo for their future generations. The destruction of the buffalo herds and the associated devastation to the Tribes disrupted the self-sufficient lifestyle of the Indian people more than all other federal policies to date. To reestablish healthy buffalo populations on Tribal lands is to reestablish hope for the Indian people. Members of the InterTribal Bison Cooperative (ITBC) understand that reintroduction of the buffalo to Tribal lands will help heal the spirit of both the Indian people and the buffalo.
RETURNING BUFFALO TO INDIAN COUNTRY
Although some Tribes and Tribal members have been engaged in the production of buffalo for sale and/or for the subsistence and cultural use, these activities have been conducted by each individual Tribe, with little or no collaboration between the Tribes. However, ITBC was formed in 1990 to coordinate and assist Tribes in returning buffalo to Indian Country. ITBC has a membership of 28 Tribes with a collective herd of over 3,500 bison. Membership of ITBC remains open and there is continued interest by non-member Tribes in the organization.
ITBC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) Tribal organization and is committed to reestablishing buffalo herds on Indian lands in a manner that promotes economic development, cultural enhancement, ecological restoration, and spiritual revitalization. ITBC is governed by a Board of Directors, which is comprised of one Tribal representative from each member Tribe.
MEMBERSHIP AND SUPPORT
ITBC is funded through public and private grants and donations. Any contributions for the restoration of the buffalo to Indian Country are welcomed and greatly appreciated. All contributions will be devoted to sustaining and strengthening Native American buffalo projects. Individuals and organizations interested in supporting ITBC may become honorary members for an annual fee of $100.00. Honorary members will receive a quarterly newsletter and periodic technical publications on the cultural, social, ecological, and economic aspects of buffalo and their relationship with Indian people.
For more information, you can reach the Intertribal Bison Cooperative at:
InterTribal Bison Cooperative
1560 Concourse Drive
Rapid City, SD 57703
PH: 605-394-9730 Fax: 605-394-7742
** MEMBER TRIBES **
MT. CHEYENNE RIVER SIOUX TRIBE, SD.
CHOCTAW NATION OF OKLAHOMA, OK.
CONFEDERATED SALISH & KOOTENAI TRIBES.
MT. CROW TRIBE, MT. CROW CREEK SIOUX TRIBE, SD.
DEVILS LAKE SIOUX TRIBE, ND.
FT. SILL APACHE, OK.
GROS VENTRE & ASSINIBOINE KALISPEL TRIBE, WA.
TRIBES, MT. MODOC TRIBE OF OKLAHOMA, OK.
LOWER BRULE SIOUX TRIBE, SD.
NEZ PERCE TRIBE, ID.
NORTHERN CHEYENNE TRIBE, MT.
OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE, SD.
ONEIDA TRIBES OF WISCONSIN, WI.
PICURIS PUEBLO, NM. ROUND VALLEY, CA.
SANTEE SIOUX TRIBE, NE
SHOSHONE-BANNOCK TRIBES, ID.
SOUTHERN UTE TRIBE, CO.
SISSETON-WAHPETON DAKOTA NATION, SD.
TAOS PUEBLO, NM.
STANDING ROCK SIOUX TRIBE, ND.
UTE TRIBE, UT.
WINNEBAGO TRIBE OF NEBRASKA, NE.
WISCONSIN WINNEBAGO TRIBE, WI.
YANKTON SIOUX TRIBE, SD.
Her words are
Peace, Love, and Life
No more strife
And no more fight.
Hear, our people;
We are still alive,
With the sacred wisdom
That lives inside.
You think you are superior
civilized man, look what
you’ve done to these
We are not but a flea
on our mother’s back.
How much more
before she cracks.
Hear her call us one
and all, for if not
we all will fall.
You’ve taken advantage
of these precious lands
what is to come, is
now at hand.
Remember to be humble
along the way.
for each and every day.