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Weekly Update from the Field February 9, 2006
* The Buffalo Nations are Coming!
* Thank you for Taking Action for the Buffalo
* Bison Quarantine Comments Due Monday, February 13
* Last Words -- "Already Home"

* 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 is coming.
With the Buffalo,
~ Stephany & Dan

* Thank You for Making those Calls!

Last 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 work, everyone!
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 environmental review.

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 with questions.

* 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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