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Weekly Update from the Field January 18, 2007
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* News from the Field
* Send a Personalized Valentine and Support BFC!
* Last Words

* News from the Field
Yesterday, January 17, 2007, marked the start of the latest phase in the Montana bison hunt.   BFC's Gardiner patrol took to the field at first light and discovered three bull buffalo already in the hunters' sights near the  Eagle Creek campground, and our hopes for a quiet day were shattered.  With time against us we had to choose our location rapidly but wisely, having only one chance to sufficiently capture the day's events. 
Unfortunately, before we were able to get in position, the telltale crack of a rifle told us that the first buffalo had been shot.  As we've seen time and again, when one buffalo is killed his companions tend to stay in the area rather than scatter and run.  This enabled a second group of hunters to sight in on the second buffalo with great ease.  Because of our location, we were able to capture on film the multiple shots needed to bring the second buffalo down.  With so many shots we lost track at five but later overheard a conversation about seven brass casings being recovered at the scene. 
As the third buffalo looked on towards his fallen brothers we approached the hunters and engaged them in conversation.  We discussed Montana's intolerance for bison, the nearly perpetual hazing and lack of habitat in Montana due to the complete failure of the Inter-agency Bison Management Plan.  While we disagreed about the merits of the bison hunt we found some common ground in our views of how wild bison should be treated in the state.  Although BFC disagrees with the hunt, we recognize the power of Montana's hunting community and hope that such dialog, education, and outreach will eventually lead to positive change for the bison. 
Later we came across a third buffalo that was shot in the Travertine area, on the other side of the hunt zone.  We were able to document the loading of the carcass into the hunter's truck.  These hunters weren't interested in dialogue and simply loaded up and left.

Near West Yellowstone another group of hunters, apparently frustrated at the lack of bison in Montana and their resulting failure to shoot one, have been untruthfully complaining to the local game warden that BFC patrols are chasing bison back into the park.  Their frustration would be better directed at the Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission, which ignored the advice of its own scientists and issued more permits than there are buffalo in the state.  Rather than making up false excuses for their unsuccessful hunt, these hunters would do better to demand on-the-ground changes in bison management that would allow bison to flourish on Montana soil.
Over the weekend members of the Nez Perce tribe shot three bison near Gardiner in a hunt authorized by their government and falling outside the scope of the current hunt administered by Montana.  The Nez Perce have hunted in the region for thousands of years, a relationship acknowledged under an 1855 treaty with the US government.  If not for the incredible destruction visited upon the Nez Perce, other Indian nations, and the species upon which their cultures are based, the health and vitality of the land and its communities--human and nonhuman--would not be in such a state of crisis and conflict.

Unfortunately, the discrimination and lack of tolerance that had such disastrous consequences in the 19th century is alive and strong today.  According to a story in the January 13 Bozeman Chronicle, the Nez Perce decision to re-establish hunting of species other than bison doesn't sit well with members of the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission.  That article quotes Commission Chairman Steve Doherty as saying, "This does give me some pretty grave concern."  According to the same article, the Commission's concern does not extend to bison: "The tribe's desire to take bison drew no criticism from the commission, other than a desire to alert nontribal hunters now in the field that others will be joining them," the Chronicle reported.
While the Nez Perce have received lots of negative attention for asserting their rights to hunt near Yellowstone National Park, apparently it is ok for Montana and the National Park service to enforce Montana's lack of bison tolerance through the continued slaughter and harassment of thousands of bison.

With so many buffalo being killed in the past year and with the policies that led to such heavy slaughter still in place, we are concerned with the killing of bison by anyone.  Aware of how much the Nez Perce have done for Salmon recovery efforts, we are hopeful that they will have a similar effect upon the bison who reside in and around Yellowstone.  With these things in mind, BFC has established an open dialog with the Nez Perce, as we attempt to do with all hunters.

James Holt spoke to us on camera about what this hunt means to the Nez Perce.  Excerpts from the interview, which can be viewed in whole at: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org, are included below:

"What you see here is us being able to continue living the way we always have....the buffalo obviously need to have habitat out here...We're here to provide for our families, to honor the ancestors and speak to the buffalo today...Our people are dying from diabetes.  Our people are dying from all these health problems that we have on the reservation and many of their people are people that had ties to the buffalo that were severed 150, 160, 180 years ago.  We've seen our people decline.  We've seen our people get close to extinction through the way we've been forced to live.  This [hunt] gives us an opportunity to strengthen how we live on this earth.  It strengthens that resolve, that respect, that honor and that dignity that we have to live on this earth every day.  That's what that means for us...   and so if they say that we're out here and we're  helping them to slaughter, well you know we've been slaughtered too and we're still being slaughtered to this day  by the policies that affect our Indian people.  From the poor health care to the lack of education to the lack of housing we have all these other problems at home and these things, they're tied to the life of the buffalo...to the buffalo that is ailing right now because of the brucellosis that affects his body or the slaughtering under this Plan.  The federal management plan that affects them is the federal management plan that affects us.  It's all about termination, control, and exercising the power that they have because it's there rather than because it's right.  And so that's what I would say in rebuke to those that would say we're assistant to the slaughter.  We're here forging a relationship that was severed for us by the white man when these buffalo were slaughtered.  We're here starting that back up so that we can understand what it means to truly love and honor and respect our brother the buffalo."

With the Buffalo,
Buffalo Field Campaign
* Send a Personalized Valentine and Support BFC!
Valentine's Day is on the horizon, and once again BFC offers you the opportunity to send an original, hand-crafted card to the special people in your life.  Your parents, grandparents, best friend, sweetheart, favorite teacher, the grumpy guy next door who obviously needs extra kindness...our card is appropriate for all relationships. Added bonus:  It lets the recipient(s) know that you are a person of compassion and good heart, and it raises funds for BFC, allowing us to continue the important work of defending America's last free-roaming, wild bison.

Two cards are available.  For a $10 contribution, a 4-1/4" X 5-1/2" bison card (copy of hand-drawn original); for a $35 contribution, a larger hand-made photo card featuring Yellowstone bison.  Both contain brief information on BFC and our work, and bear the sentiment:  "A gift has been made in your honor by _________ for the love of wild bison.  Happy Valentine's Day!  'Nature never did betray the heart that loved her...'  Wordsworth"

Card orders must be received by Saturday February 3; please order early.  We'll time the mailing to arrive by Valentine's Day. 

To order, just click on this link: https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?id=1807, specify the donation amount for the type of card you are ordering, scroll down to "Special Valentine's Card," select the card you want, then move below to the "Valentine Info Box" and write the recipient's name and address as well as how you would like the card signed.  To complete, scroll down to fill in general and credit card info into the secure server.

If you'd rather pay through the mail, send a check along with the name and address of your Valentine to: BFC, PO Box 957, West Yellowstone, MT 59758.
* Last Words
At the Buffalo Field Campaign we have a wonderful tradition at the the end of our daily meeting.  Each day, a volunteer signs up for Share Bear to share a writing, a poem, a song, some humor or other inspiration with the group.  For my Share Bear on January 12, I read one of my mother's poems and my related thoughts.

The Kaleidoscope
by Ruth Allen Siskind

Savor the kaleidoscope of living,
The jeweled colors, sparkling,
When you hold them to the light,
The rhythm of patterns, repeated,
And changing, and slipping away,
Never to come again.
the wonder or new designs,
New shapes and colors,
Coming into sight.
Look at the patterns
With the eyes of a child.
Pause awhile, and gaze,
   and find delight.
©2003 Ruth Allen Siskind

I was thinking about how volunteering for the BFC is like a kaleidoscope. Volunteers come from all over the world. People of different religions, races, orientations, family backgrounds, economic circumstances, ages and communities--all come here to work for the buffalo.

Our diverse backgrounds can bring sparkle like the colors of a kaleidoscope. Each person brings their talents, perspectives, creativity, skills and their personal connection to the buffalo.

Beyond our common purpose of working together to save America's last free roaming buffalo, we also have the opportunity here to develop a better understanding and appreciation for the diversity of volunteers that can add to the beauty and effectiveness of the BFC kaleidoscope.

It is my hope and prayer that coming together for the buffalo can bring us a step closer to understanding, tolerance, and the universal connection that we have with each other, with the buffalo, with all of nature, and with our world.

Marian Osher, BFC Volunteer
January, 2007

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