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Weekly Update from the Field April 17, 2008
Subscribe to our email list and receive our weekly Update from the Field
* Update from the Field
* Buffalo Spirits Released ~ A Sacred Gathering
* CUT Deal Goes Down; Bad Deal for Wild Bison
* Sign on to Emergency Rule Making Petition to Stop the Slaughter Now!
* Mother's Day Hand Crafted Cards for the Buffalo's Cause ~ Deadline April 25
* Lesson's Learned from Wild Bison: Missoula, MT, Saturday, May 3, 2008
* Photo of the Week
* Last Words

* 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 wire fence.

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!

Roam Free,
* 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 denied.

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 to go.
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 message.

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.

Roam Free,

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 (Brett French)
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 and death.

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 now!

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 DAY!  

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 slide show
"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?
Buffalo! Buffalo!
With the power of their great souls,
Buffalo once roamed this country,
They lived here!
Chorus: What's that thunder in the ground?
Buffalo! Buffalo!
Rolling thunder in the ground,
Buffalo come back!
What's that thunder in the ground?
Buffalo! Buffalo!
Terrible and swift they go,
From the great waters to the mountains,
They lived here!
Chorus: (repeat)
What's that thunder in the ground?
Buffalo! Buffalo!
Thunder in a big brown cloud,
They watched over all their brothers,
They lived here!
~ A song by buffalo friend Elizabeth Middleton

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