* Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
The slaughter continues at an unprecedented rate. More
than 1,600 wild buffalo have been killed since November.
One hundred and twelve orphaned (by agency action) calves
have been sent to a government domestication prison
they intend to use for "bison restoration."
Female buffalo being held in the Park's trap for "spring
release" are starting to give birth, and four more
pen deaths, including three newborn calves, have occurred.
The Park Service has continued to haze wild buffalo
nearly every single day. Sadly, we report that the five
bulls who escaped the Department of Livestock's hazing
operation last Thursday came down from their high, safe
place and were subsequently shot by the agents. Another
bull buffalo was shot by a DOL agent that same day because
he had walked onto grass that is privately-owned.
In West Yellowstone all the buffalo we have been seeing
are showing signs of barely surviving a severe winter.
The snows are still deep. The buffalo are bone thin.
One female buffalo was seen migrating with a family
group, with afterbirth coming from her body but no calf
with her. Another mamma, ready to give birth, has been
bedded down right along the side of highway 191 for
many days. She shows no reaction to passing tractor
trailer trucks. She is tired and hungry, and she is
like so many buffalo that are trying to simply survive
what Mother Nature deals them. Winter will always take
her toll, but there would not be so many buffalo starving
if the government didn't prevent them from migrating
to where they can find food. Shane Grube, the local
Department of Livestock agent, has been scouting the
land, trying to find where the buffalo are, and preparing
the Duck Creek trap for more capture and slaughter.
We know how many buffalo have died at the hands of the
agents and hunters. The question we must press to the
agencies is how many wild American buffalo are left?
According to a recent report put out by the Park Service,
only 1,436 buffalo remain. We are pressing the Park
Service for details, because the numbers just don't
add up if their fall population estimate was 4,700 buffalo.
Wild bison, even when the agents aren't around, are
still sometimes treated wickedly by the few humans who
have a deep-seated hatred or misunderstanding of these
amazing creatures. The other day, patrols watched in
frustration as a citizen was seen throwing snowballs
at a grazing bull buffalo, and later, another citizen
stopped to take pictures of a different bull, spooking
him and causing him to get tangled in a high-tension
But now for some good news: An amazing Releasing of
the Buffalo Spirits ceremony was held inside Yellowstone
National Park on April 15 (see below), and it was positively
powerful! The bluebirds, pelicans, osprey, and Sandhill
cranes have returned to the West Yellowstone area, while
the grass in the Gardiner area is starting to grow.
And, on the west boundary, the first baby buffalo of
the season was seen by patrols this past weekend. The
next generation is coming!
* Buffalo Spirits Released ~ A Sacred Gathering
The morning of the ceremony was a blustery one. So blustery
that Yellowstone National Park's power was blown out.
As the hour drew near for the gathering, the intensity
of the winds increased. It seemed perfectly fitting
because spirits set free should ride the currents of
the sky; buffalo being so powerful would, of course,
call forth winds of such strength that the very earth
is pulled from the ground and carried along. And that's
what they did.
As the people gathered at the crossroads of Old Yellowstone
Trail and Stephens Creek Road, inside Yellowstone National
Park, we knew we were about to enter into something
very sacred. We were given permission to hold the ceremony
near the trap. It was strange to access the Park's forbidden
zone, entering the closure area surrounding and encompassing
the Stephens Creek bison trap, where the public is locked
out of on every other day.
Being so close to where over 1,400 wild bison have been
captured and slaughtered or sent to quarantine felt
very strange. Over one hundred and twenty people were
there, and we walked right past the sign that says "Authorized
Personnel ONLY - Corral Operations." It felt like
a pilgrimage walking up that road to gather near the
trap, to the site where the first Releasing ceremony
was held in 1997, after 1,084 wild buffalo were killed.
Off to the northwest side of the circle, the outer pens
of the trap were empty. The Park Service must have pushed
the buffalo deeper into the smaller corrals. We could
just barely see a few. More than 200 wild buffalo are
being held in the trap awaiting slaughter, or imprisoned
until the government decides the grass in the Park is
green enough to let them go. The morning of the ceremony,
the Park sent twenty more to slaughter.
At the Releasing Ceremony in 1997, Park Service employees
covered their badges in black, shamed by their agencies
participation in the killing of a sacred species, an
American icon: the generous, powerful buffalo. But this
time the Park Rangers didn't join the ceremony; instead,
the few rangers that were there stood along the outer
edges of the Circle, as if keeping watch for mischievous
doings. Somewhere inside them, they must have been feeling
the power of the gathering, the deep reality of the
reason we were all there; it could not be ignored or
As the Circle was formed the winds continued to increase
in power. Coming from the Southwest, down through the
mountains, they were heading North towards the Paradise
Valley, in exactly the direction the buffalo keep trying
Chief Arvol Looking Horse spoke to us of the intention
of the ceremony, but the winds made it difficult to
hear them all clearly. He spoke to us in Lakota, and
Rosalie translated his words. Healing words. Meaningful
words. Words with purpose. Words that were blown by
the gusts coming from the mountains and carried to all
who need to hear them. Words that were more than heard,
they were felt, and they came from a place that has
been with buffalo for thousands of years. And still
the winds increased, carrying spoken language away,
forcing us to pay attention to the wind's presence and
The buffalo are one of the only animals who actually
face into a storm. Face the wind. Face their dangers.
This time, they *were* the wind. The buffalo spirits
were being released. The ghost-herds were thundering
through the circle, heading right for the valley below
where their ancestors thrived, where they have been
trying to return for many, many years. I saw this so
clearly for one acute moment, more real than any vision
I've ever experienced. There they were, a mass of buffalo
stampeding on the wind, storming through our circle,
touching us all with their passage.
Something in us was released that day as well. The tears
finally came; the necessary tears many of us have held
back for fear of not being able to stop. To be there
together, after such a painful season, to see, touch,
feel the people who love the buffalo, to know we are
not alone in our suffering, or in our deep love and
respect. To know we are there with them, building a
buffalo family, and will see this through no matter
how long it takes. To begin to heal together and give
thanks for the buffalo that still live, to sing songs
for those who are now gone, so that they may one day
return and feel the winds as they re-inhabit the prairies.
Rosalie says that in Lakota tradition, when buffalo
die, we must honor them with songs so they can come
back again. When the Park Service and DOL kill them
so disrespectfully, they sing no songs and the buffalo's
spirits can't be let go. So the Ceremony was necessary
to help the buffalo move on. Songs were given to the
buffalo. They will come back.
We wish to extend our deepest, heartfelt, soul-felt
thanks and gratitude to all of you who joined us in
spirit or in person for the Releasing of the Buffalo
Spirits Ceremony. We give thanks to Seeds of Peace for
the abundance of delicious food. We give thanks to Bear
Creek Council for providing the space for the feast
following the ceremony. We give thanks to the BFC volunteers
who helped cook and clean, and to those who weren't
able to join in the ceremony so that they could be in
the field with the buffalo. We give thanks to Seventh
Generation Fund's Tatanka Oyate Project for making this
ceremony possible. We give special thanks to Chief Arvol
Looking Horse and Rosalie Little Thunder for bringing
us together in a sacred manner, to honor the wild buffalo
who have been so senselessly killed, to pray and sing
for their spirits' release, and for creating a space
of healing for all of us who love the buffalo deeply,
suffer with them, and continue to fight for their freedom.
We give thanks to the Buffalo.
P.S. Below are links to a couple of news stories
about the Releasing Ceremony
Buffalo Requiem: Indian ceremony honors slaughtered
bison (includes photos and video), Billings Gazette
Prayer ceremony for Yellowstone buffalo: What a blustery
wind can evoke
New West Unfiltered (Jim Macdonald)
* CUT Deal Goes Down ~ Bad Deal for Wild Bison
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and Yellowstone National
Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis are expected to be
making an "historic announcement" today. Word
has it they will be revealing that the "deal"
has been closed between the Church Universal & Triumphant
(CUT), the State of Montana, USDA Animal & Plant
Health Inspection Service, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition,
and National Parks Conservation Association.
As Mike Mease put it so perfectly, "The only historic
announcement that Schweitzer and Lewis could possibly
make is that they've killed more wild American buffalo
than anyone since the 1800s."
This so-called deal is a $2.5 million 30-year land lease
agreement that is being touted as a plan which will
stem the slaughter of wild bison that migrate out of
Yellowstone's northern boundary. In truth, it's a bad
deal for bison and just exacerbates the current mismangement
scheme. Only 25 bison will be allowed to temporarily
access portions of Gallatin National Forest and CUT
land, but first, they'll have to be captured, tested
for exposure to brucellosis, tagged, and the females
fitted with vaginal telemetry devices. Meanwhile, hundreds
of other bison will still be subjected to the same mistreatment
Details will be revealed at a press conference today
held by Governor Schweitzer and Superintendent Lewis.
BFC will be in attendance.
Please check http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org
later today for updates on this "deal," and
we'll be sure to fill you in with next week's Update
from the Field.
Read an Associate Press article from today's Missoulian:
* Sign on to Emergency Rule Making Petition
to Stop the Slaughter Now!
Please visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/stoptheslaughter.html
to help build public support for an emergency rule making
petition to stop the slaughter of the last wild bison
Last week, a diverse group of wild bison advocates filed
an Emergency Rule Making Petition with the U.S. Department
of the Interior seeking to stop the National Park Service
from slaughtering wild bison. Please help by signing
on to the petition yourself, and encourage your friends,
family and colleagues to do the same. More than 1,600
wild bison have been killed, with nearly 1,300 of those
killed by Yellowstone National Park! How many wild buffalo
are left? Help stop the slaughter now!
Sign on and learn more:
Read the press release: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press0708/pressreleases0708/041008.html
Spread the word to save the herds!! THANK YOU!
* Mother's Day Hand Crafted Cards for the Buffalo's
Cause ~ Deadline April 25
Nature's antidote to human folly: the advent of a new
generation of wild bison. Here in Yellowstone country,
we anticipate this beautiful birthing time with hope
and renewed commitment to wild buffalo families in spite
of the ongoing season of despair. Once again, we offer
you, our fellow bison activists, an opportunity to spread
the word, save the herd, and invest in the critical
work of bison advocacy. Added bonus: you reveal yourself
to be a priorities-in-the-right-place human of conscience
and compassion! (Mom will be so proud….)
Buffalo Field Campaign invites you to send a handcrafted
card to the special woman or women in your life. Our
card (4-1/4 in. X 5-1/2 in.) features an endearing mini-print
photo of a bison mom and her frisky, orange calf; a
brief message about our work; and a sentiment appropriate
for mom, grandma, that special, nurturing neighbor...anyone
you'd like to honor with a Mother's Day contribution
to BFC's work for bison moms and their offspring.
The sentiment reads:
The transfer of ancient wisdom begins here:
A tender lick, a gentle nudge, her reassuring warmth…
a refuge of buffalo love.
"That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love." --Emily Dickinson
A gift has been made in your honor by _________________
for the future of wild, free-roaming bison. HAPPY MOTHER'S
For a minimum donation of $15 each (more gladly accepted!),
we'll send a 2008 Mother's Day card (timed to arrive
by May 11th) to your designated recipient(s). The ordering
deadline is Friday, April 25th; please order early!
Here's how: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/artthoughts/mothersday08.html
THANK YOU so much for your strength, love, steadfast
support, and unending dedication to freeing the last
wild buffalo. Because of you, BFC is able to be here
on the front lines with the buffalo, hold the agencies
accountable, and let the world know what is happening.
~Buffalo Field Campaign
* Lessons Learned from Wild Bison: Missoula,
MT, Saturday, May 3, 2008
Saturday, May 3, 2008; noon-1:30 pm
Missoula County Public Library
Large meeting room
Free & open to the public
Kids ~ make a simple craft (bison bookmark)!
The reality could not be more grim: The largest wild
bison slaughter since the 19th Century has occurred
during the winter/spring of 2007-2008. But giving in
to despair will not help US help THEM. Come celebrate
the Yellowstone-area bison herd--wild, free-roaming,
genetically-distinct. After watching our uplifting slide
show, you'll understand why they're worth fighting for!
"Lessons Learned from Wild Bison": An inspirational
"Protect the Wild Bison": A short video offering
a stark, realistic assessment of bison mismanagement
Q & A Session: Ask your questions; Mike Mease, co-founder
of Buffalo Field Campaign, will provide the truth.
Brought to you by Buffalo Field Campaign of West Yellowstone,
MT. BFC is the only grassroots bison advocacy group
working 365 days a year to defend the Yellowstone-area
herd and to secure their just and peaceful future.
* Photo of the Week
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of
the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, and Lakota Elder
Rosalie Little Thunder, co-founder of Buffalo Field
Campaign, during the Releasing of the Buffalo Spirits
ceremony, April 15, 2008, inside Yellowstone National
Park near Gardiner, Montana. Photo by Jesse Crocker.
* Last Words
"Thunder in the Ground"
What's that thunder in the ground?
With the power of their great souls,
Buffalo once roamed this country,
They lived here!
Chorus: What's that thunder in the ground?
Rolling thunder in the ground,
Buffalo come back!
What's that thunder in the ground?
Terrible and swift they go,
From the great waters to the mountains,
They lived here!
What's that thunder in the ground?
Thunder in a big brown cloud,
They watched over all their brothers,
They lived here!
~ A song by buffalo friend Elizabeth Middleton