Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
All of the buffalo are gone from Montana now.
Every single buffalo that has stepped out of Yellowstone
National Park has been killed by hunters, or chased
away by Yellowstone National Park Rangers.
Two more bulls were shot in the Gardiner area and Yellowstone
officials harassed yet another migrating mixed group
of buffalo. Hints from Park officials suggest
that captures at Stephens Creek bison trap might soon
occur. Today we enter the last two weeks of Montana's
bison "hunt." How many more buffalo
that dare leave Yellowstone National Park will be exterminated
Late last week, a judge heard the case of the hunter
who illegally shot a bull bison on private property,
and left him to suffer for two hours. While the
hunter plead no contest, the case was essentially dismissed.
The judge didn't even review the evidence of BFC's footage.
Neither did he follow the recommendation of Montana
Fish, Wildlife & Parks, which was to confiscate
the buffalo from the hunter. Unfortunately, the
flesh of the buffalo was returned to the "hunter."
On Monday, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer celebrated
the unveiling of the state's new quarter, which depicts
a bison skull. BFC attended the event to remind
people of the painful truth of what the skull represents:
the absence of any living wild buffalo in Montana.
We went to remind people that buffalo are not a dream
of the past, not a thing of history books, they are
fully in the present, they are trying to reclaim their
Montana habitat. The state is killing them and
the buffalo need our help. There were bus loads
of school children there, and they responded to our
message in a positive way. Some of their teachers,
however, seemed afraid of the truth and tried to shield
them from the buffalo's story. One teacher claimed
we were setting a bad example. How so? By
exercising our freedom of speech and right to assemble?
By exposing Montana's shameful reality? Another
thought one of our hand-painted banner images was "too
graphic" for children, yet we gently reminded them
that the youth are inundated with violence in video
games, cartoons, movies and TV every single day.
But, regardless of the fear the teachers had in exposing
the children to the truth, we reached the future that
day, and those kids will remember that we were there
and, more importantly, why.
BFC also attended quite a few meetings this week.
We met with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials,
we attended the Montana Board of Livestock meeting,
we met with Governor Schweitzer's staff (read BFC's
press release http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press0607/pressreleases0607/012907.html),
and we also went to the Interagency Bison Management
Plan (IBMP) meeting. Through it all there was
one prevailing theme: the livestock industry is
in charge. The bottom line seems to be that this
industry has the final say in any and all decisions
affecting wild bison in Montana. Neither the Montana
constitution nor the U.S. constitution read "by
the livestock industry and for the livestock industry."
The livestock industry is not the American people; they
are a small fraction, yet they are deciding the fate
of the last wild buffalo - and countless other wildlife
species - who belong to all Americans, who belong, ultimately,
to themselves. Through it all, when the agencies
are asked by the people to take a stand, they point
at the next agency and place the burden of change upon
them and then crumble under the pressure from livestock
interests. An endless circle of finger-pointing
that time and again ultimately results in more dead
At the IBMP meeting we did have the opportunity to share
our vision for the buffalo's future. As difficult
as it was to break through the boxes of government thought,
the buffalo spirit was strong in that room and agency
representatives heard some powerful ideas. We
spoke our minds and we spoke from our hearts and we
tried as best as we could to speak for the wild buffalo
and share their perspective. We tried to articulate
the anthropocentric nature of the current management
scheme, we expressed how the wild buffalo are showing
us the way. What these agencies took away from
this meeting we do not know. Nor do we know what
they will do with the ideas that we presented.
But, whatever the agencies choose to do with the people's
ideas, their current actions will not stop the buffalo
from continuing to walk their ancestral lands.
The wild buffalo may be few, and they may be relentlessly
persecuted, but they are strong survivors, resisting
confinement, enduring our ignorance and greed, persisting
in the face of it all, and they will return. One
day, in great numbers. The decision-makers like
to make us think that visions of wild buffalo filling
up the Great Plains again is a pipe dream. But,
all the perceived obstacles can be overcome. The biggest
challenge before us is... us. It is up to humans
to realize that 'we are the ones we have been waiting
for.' The buffalo are patient yet they are
suffering great losses due to our stubbornness.
Prayers for the buffalo are needed. So is action.
"Dream back the bison, sing back the swan."
* A Letter from a Nez Perce
So the MT FWP sent a "wasting" scenario to
the tribe. I'm disheartened by the unfortunate media
coverage of the tribal hunt, and the lack of assertiveness
the Nez Perce Tribal Government has shown in respect
to Buffalo Rights. We are attempting to tie the buffalo
back to us, yet our government doesn't solidify the
stance with a commitment to fight for their rights.
We need the habitat designation, outside of park boundaries.
Further, there must be populations to sustain any form
of harvest. Which means a larger population of bison
must perennially exist in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
I can only hope that the Tribe realizes the necessity
behind our harvest.
Our Treaty Case Law, stipulates that we have a full
say at the co-management level. The current management
scheme is dominated by the cattle industry, and federal
control interests. We must create a scenario that will
even the playing field for bison management (especially
since the ITBC and every other organization has thus
far failed to push the envelop all the way). Its obvious
other activities are too slow, and lack real power to
change historic regimes. In the end, even though
the intent of our latest hunt is multi-faceted, the
primary objective is to connect ourselves with the bison
(culturally, procedurally, legally). Irrespective of
the negative press, the motive will continue to go forward,
and tribal support will slowly strengthen. Soon, the
Tribal General Council will begin to understand what
is at stake. The opportunity we have to help the buffalo
will show itself as a need to fight. If only we would
recognize the true power we have to contribute to the
plight of the buffalo.
Lastly, we prayed for our brothers. We prayed in the
best way we know how. Tears were shed as we did what
we did. Not just for the honor we felt as being the
first to bring this way of life back to our people for
subsistence (last year was strictly ceremonial). (The
meat was almost entirely given to those in need. We
forgot to cut some meat around the neck, and we are
labelled wasters. We got 90% of the meat off of them).
Anyway, tears were also shed for the lives we took.
It is never easy to kill. We never do so lightly. Even
when it comes to fishing for salmon, digging for roots,
or picking berries, we pray for the lives we take, and
for strength to take the lives of those beings who nourish
our bodies. We pray for their journey to the next life,
just as we do for our own people.
The ignorant individuals who think we should go over
in tipi's, hunt from horse, with bow and arrow, act
like we were never progressive people. Like we have
to be some form of "extinct, primitive, native
american" that in no way exists today, to hunt
in a pure fashion. We used to be more commonly known
as the Tsuupnitpalu - The Walking Down People. For the
unique way we came walking down out of the Divide to
hunt, as entire bands of people. We used to walk in
the hundreds all the way over to Yellowstone! So the
horse brought technological advancement to us as well!
Yet, we must shed our corduroy, wool-lined coats for
buckskin shirts, and our pickups for horses, and our
guns for bows and arrows. How absurd is that??!! I wish
folks would educate themselves as to the true meaning
of the history of this land. In that way, they can begin
to appreciate the way of life we still hold to this
day. Our way of life never ended when Chief Joseph gave
his famous surrender speech. It was solidified
by those who gave their lives in that very war. We went
through Yellowstone during the Nez Perce War, because
we claimed some of it as our own. We knew the land!!
That is why in 1855 Chief Looking Glass and Chief White
Bird had the foresight to ensure our way of life in
Buffalo Country would live on in our Treaty of 1855.
Even before the Nez Perce War. I appreciate this
opportunity to comment. I apologize for ranting and
raving about these issues. I know your heart is in a
good place. Its just that we have lost more than anyone
will ever know. The native people have lost almost everything,
just as the bison has. They pushed to the brink with
their termination, control, quarantining, and culling.
Historic Indian Policy is well documented. A part of
that is also the history of the bison. We are one. If
ignorant folks in Montana could take some diversity
classes, maybe they'll begin to appreciate what the
word "culture" really means, and in that way,
understand their own just a little bit more as well...
Thank you for your time.
Read one of the news articles James is referring to,
printed in the Billings Gazette on Jan. 27.
* Wild Buffalo Take the Stage, Parade &
Dance in Missoula
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 2
DOWNTOWN MISSOULA ART WALK
5 TO 8 PM BIKE PARADE AND THEATRE
STENSRUD COMMUNITY CENTER
8:30 PM DANCE PERFORMANCE, COMEDY, SPOKEN WORD, VIDEO
LATE EVENING ONWARD - DANCE PARTY!
Join Buffalo Field Campaign in Missoula, Montana, for
a thought provoking, informative and entertaining event
about the meaning of wildness, and how it is being jeopardized
by our state and federal agencies. This event
is being organized to alert the public about the horrendously
misguided "quarantine feasibility study" involving
Yellowstone bison calves.
The evening begins with Missoula's First Friday Art
Walk 5 to 8 PM, including a bike parade and street theatre,
climaxing at 8:30 PM with speakers, video and more at
the Stensrud Community Center, located at 314 N. 1st
Street West, north of the RR tracks and next to the
Gold Dust Gallery in Missoula, Montana. Dance
party to follow.
for a complete announcement or contact Drea 726-0040
or Dru 542-5165 for more information.
The Open Field Artists have prepared an amazing dance
performance, which will explore the meaning of wildness.
There will be an entertaining satirical skit performed,
called Bourgeois Bison, along with spoken word and footage
of the quarantined bison, provided by Buffalo Field
Afterwards, get your groove on at a dance party with
DJ Aaron Jennings providing the music. The evening
promises to be both entertaining and heart-wrenching,
but always with a sense of hope for the future.
Join the herd for street theater and a bike parade downtown
Missoula during Art Walk at 5 to 8 PM.
The wild bison advocacy group Buffalo Field Campaign
is sponsoring the event and will have fact sheets, T-shirts,
a donation jar and display table at the Stensrud Community
Center. This event is part of raising awareness about
Buffalo Field Campaign's planned week of action at the
end of March calling for an immediate moratorium on
the bison quarantine experiment, including a release
of the bison now in the facility.
Stop the Bison Quarantine!
For further information contact:
Buffalo Field Campaign
PO Box 957 West Yellowstone, Montana 59758
* Last Chance to Order Valentine's Day Cards!
Just a couple days left to send a token of your love,
for the love of buffalo and those working in their defense!
The last day to order these beautiful, hand-crafted
cards for your sweetheart or loved ones is Saturday,
February 3, 2007. All proceeds go towards the
work of the Buffalo Field Campaign.
Get some wild BuffaLove for your Valentine now!
* Last Words
"In wildness is the preservation of the world."
Henry David Thoreau