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Weekly Update from the Field February 1, 2007
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* Update from the Field
* A Letter from a Nez Perce
* Wild Buffalo Take the Stage, Parade & Dance in Missoula
* Last Chance to Order Valentine's Day Cards!
* Last Words

* 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 by hunters? 

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 buffalo.

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."

Roam Free,
* 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.
James Holt

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
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.

Visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/events/quarantine_event.html 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 Campaign.
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
406-646-0070  PHONE
406-646-0071  FAX
* 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

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