The Buffalo Nations are coming!
Over the weekend, we were blessed with the
presence of BFC co-founder, Lakota elder Rosalie Little
Thunder. She and her good friend Richard, a Crow tribal
member, came to join us on the front lines in Gardiner
where so many buffalo have recently been sent to slaughter
by the National Park Service. We took part in a gathering
of nations, brought together by the buffalo with people
from the Blackfeet, Crow, Lakota, Navajo, and Nez Perce
tribes. We strengthened our resolve to defend the sacred
buffalo, and made clear our intentions to combine our
efforts and raise our voices as one in the name of justice
for the sacred Buffalo Nation.
The Nez Perce came to reawaken their relationship with
the the buffalo. Exercising their 1855 treaty rights
for the first time in 140 years, the Nez Perce came
to their traditional hunting grounds to hunt the wild
buffalo. Five buffalo were taken by the Nez Perce, actions
understood to be outside of Montana's reinstated hunt.
This hunt was done respectfully and with good intentions.
Elders and youth joined together in a sacred way to
reinsert themselves in the fate and future of the last
wild buffalo. Theirs is not only to harvest the buffalo,
not just to reclaim hunting rights, but to become a
major player in the buffalo's future. As we all do,
the Nez Perce see that the government is not doing good
for the buffalo, that government actions lack respect
and they dishonor the sacred nature of the buffalo.
The Nez Perce have been paying close attention and realize
that things must change. With their hunt, they have
made a powerful statement and in sacrificing these five
buffalo, they have taken on the responsibility to be
their champions once again.
Rosalie let no one forget that to take from the buffalo
something more must be given back to them.
While Nations gathered in Gardiner, a different reawakening
was taking place in the small community of Livingston,
Montana. Monica RavenHeart is a brave woman who takes
positive action. After hearing about the Park Service's
slaughter, in less than a week and a half she organized
"A Sacred Drumming for Life." At least 100
people heard Monica's call and gathered at the Livingston
Depot, drums in hand, to celebrate hoof-beat and heart-beat.
We honored the mighty grizzly bear, we honored the courageous
buffalo. We told stories and we drummed. We drummed
loud and long. In the drumming you could feel and hear
and know that the Buffalo Nation was coming. You knew
that the government was not as powerful as the love
and honor that the people have for the wild. The heartbeat
of the bear was pounding, the hoof-beat of the buffalo
thundering. Visualizing, we drummed. We pounded the
buffalo and bear into reawakening and returning in strength
of numbers, strength of heart, awesome power that mere
humans can never take away, but we humans can celebrate
and welcome. And we did.
Sunday we learned that the Blackfeet had taken a buffalo,
their second in Montana's hunt. We gathered together
at the kill site, forming a circle of many cultures.
Rosalie and Richard led us in prayer and song. We prayed
for the buffalo and their relatives, for the spirit
of the one who died, and for the future of the wild
herds. The next day, Mike and Ken visited the kill site
and found an amazing thing: seven bulls walking in a
circle around where their brother had fallen. In their
own ceremony, the buffalo walked and sniffed and grunted.
In their buffalo way, they addressed Mike and Ken; as
the buffalo's ceremony ended, two bulls walked within
feet of them and stared into and through them as if
to acknowledge all that had transpired over the few
short days. Then they were on their way.
On Tuesday evening, here in West Yellowstone, just before
dark, nine buffalo walked down the road in front of
our cabin. These nine buffalo were on their way to ancestral
lands that they have been kept from for decades: the
Madison Valley. This mixed group was sometimes lead
by a baby buffalo. Maybe he had a vision. They walked
west with determination. Agents spotted them as night
fell and pushed them off the highway into a housing
area where they were left for the night. But the buffalo
had other plans. By morning, our patrols found them
ten miles further west, closer to their destination.
They had made it all the way to Beaver Creek, just a
few miles from the lush Madison Valley and a vast expanse
of good grass and little snow where there are no cattle.
But the government must control. They came in force
with trucks, snowmobiles and ATVs. They trapped the
nine buffalo on the side of the road, surrounding them
with their machines. The buffalo knew their journey
was over. They were trapped, but not defeated. This
was a major victory for the buffalo, even though the
government halted it. The buffalo almost made it to
the Madison Valley! We should have been parading with
them, in celebration. Instead we had to document as
the Department of Livestock (DOL), MT Fish Wildlife
& Parks (FWP), US Forest Service, US Park Service
and area law enforcement surrounded the buffalo and
sealed their fate.
After long waiting, a DOL truck with a livestock trailer
pulled up. Behind it, a truck with cattle corral pieces.
The agents constructed a make-shift corral and surrounded
the buffalo. Then they hooted and hollered and shook
noise-makers, forcing the beautiful family onto the
livestock trailer. We didn't know where they would go
- would they be released or would they go go slaughter?
We followed the livestock trailer and it turned towards
the Duck Creek Capture Facility. We thought it would
be slaughter for sure. But it wasn't. The buffalo endured
the trap overnight. In the morning Governor Schweitzer
was consulted, and perhaps due to the pressure you have
been placing on him, he urged the DOL to release the
buffalo. The next morning, they were set free along
the Madison River, just a few miles west of Yellowstone
National Park. When we skied in to check on them, they
had already started heading in their own direction,
away from where the agents pushed them. Where were they
going? Would they try again to make their way to the
Madison Valley? They are attempting to reclaim their
ancestral lands. One day they will. The drumming, the
gathering, the hoof-beats, and and the heart-beats send
a strong message: Change is coming! The Buffalo Nation
With the Buffalo,
~ Stephany & Dan
* Thank You for Making those Calls!
Thursday's National Call-in Day was a success! Thank
you to everyone who participated. When we spoke with
the Park Service, they said it was all they could do
to keep up with our phone calls. The Church Universal
& Triumphant was also overwhelmed with calls. Great
Change can take a long time, but it is coming. Your
persistence, like that of the buffalo, is strong. The
pressure that together we've placed on the Governor
encouraged him to make better decisions for the buffalo.
He is trying to do the right thing, and you are helping
him make these decisions. The same will happen with
the National Park Service. When we join our voices together
and let the people harming the buffalo know that this
is not acceptable and that it must stop, it will. We
must continue this persistence. Things may get worse
before they get better, but change is coming. As the
buffalo continue to reclaim their ancestral grounds,
their native habitat, we must continue to place pressure
on those who try to stop them.
Thank you for being a voice for the last wild buffalo!
Help keep the pressure on the powers-that-be and don't
let up until the wild buffalo are set free!
Yellowstone National Park: 307-344-2022
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer: 406-444-3111
Church Universal & Triumphant: 800-245-5445
* Quarantine Comments Due Monday, February 13
Just a few miles north of Yellowstone National Park,
near Gardiner, is the Corwin Springs quarantine facility.
Here you can see tall electric fences, doubled in strength,
surrounding 100 wild baby buffalo that are being held
prisoner. The young buffalo are tagged like livestock.
They eat hay instead of fresh grass. They are caged.
They will be handled, experimented on, forced to breed
and then most will be slaughtered.
Seeing these little ones over the weekend broke our
hearts. They were so alone; their elders absent, no
big brothers or sisters, moms, aunts or uncles. All
of their relatives have been sent to slaughter. These
baby buffalo are being held in confinement because the
state and federal governments have a joint plan to create
a disease-free herd of buffalo with an intent to release
them as "wild" onto yet unnamed public and
tribal lands. What an insult to the wild buffalo and
to the First Nations who hold them sacred.
It's not only buffalo that suffer the presence of the
quarantine facility. This past November, BFC patrols
observed the presence of at least eight Bighorn Sheep
within the upper pasture of the facility . According
to FWP, the Bighorns have been using the area since
before FWP took over the facility. Last week, agents
unsuccessfully attempted to haze the Bighorns out of
the pasture. Yesterday, they unsuccessfully attempted
to net capture and remove the Bighorns from the facility.
As the presence of Bighorn Sheep in the quarantine facility
suggests, studies of this nature are simply not appropriate
for this region. The agencies have demonstrated that
they cannot meet their goals of maintaining an isolated
space to conduct the quarantine experiment. Furthermore,
there are significant impacts on other migratory wildlife
that bring into questions the assumptions of the initial
While we strongly oppose the purpose and need for bison
quarantine as well as the conditions under which the
study is carried out, it is clear that the locations
chosen are inappropriate and detrimental to the migratory
wildlife that inhabit the Gardiner region. The agencies
should immediately cease and desist from operating this
facility and return the captive bison to Yellowstone
National Park for release.
If you have not already submitted comments on the proposed
Phase II and III expansion of the bison quarantine experiment,
please consider incorporating the above information
into your comments.
Thank you for taking action for the last wild buffalo!
More information on bison quarantine is available on
our web site at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/actionalerts.html#bisonquarantine.
You can also email Josh at bfc-advocate"at"wildrockies.org
* Last Words
Why, when we come to staring in
at the edges of the land,
Do we see only a wilderness
separating us from what we desire?
The buffalo tread their migration enduring,
they're slow, they're deliberate,
Like the ancients in the desert
toward the promised land
Their pilgrimage continues long and long
and long through seasons passing into
new ages through valleys of shadow
But they know:
They are already in the temple.
They are already home.
- Owen Lubozynski, BFC Volunteer, 2006
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