* Tribal Slaughter Agreements Create Rifts
This winter has been especially trying for Buffalo Field Campaign and devastating to the last wild buffalo. Particularly heartbreaking has been the direct participation of some tribal governments and organizations--traditionally our strongest allies and greatest sources of hope for the buffalo's future--in the government's buffalo slaughter operations. These tribal entities, for the first time ever, have bought into the Montana livestock industry's notions that Yellowstone has "surplus" buffalo by actively working with Yellowstone National Park to slaughter buffalo.
As I write this, two livestock trailers belonging to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) are heading west on Interstate 90 hauling dozens of live buffalo to a slaughterhouse on the Flathead Indian Reservation. While we don't yet know the exact number of buffalo in these trailers, we do know that in recent weeks the CSKT have slaughtered 37 buffalo and the Intertribal Buffalo Council (ITBC) has slaughtered 146. The majority of these slaughtered buffalo have been adult females, many of which were pregnant with what should have been this spring's calves.
Native American tribes are the buffalo's oldest human kin with relations going back tens of thousands of years. They are sovereign nations whose laws and customs, like their connections to the buffalo, have evolved over millennia. No one knows the buffalo more intimately than the tribes, whose cultures were nearly destroyed when our European ancestors nearly drove the buffalo extinct.
Buffalo Field Campaign has always believed that tribal involvement in buffalo management decisions would be essential to any effort to earn the buffalo the respect and protection they so desperately need. This is reflected in our mission statement, which commits us to "working with people of all Nations to honor the sacredness of wild buffalo."
To the tribes, reengaging in their sacred relationships with wild buffalo is essential to reestablishing hope or, in the words of the ITBC, to "healing the spirit of both the Indian people and the buffalo." We celebrated when the tribes and the ITBC were finally given a voting seat at the table among the state and federal agencies administering the Interagency Bison Management Plan. When the tribes began exercising their treaty rights to hunt buffalo, we respected those rights, even agreeing to turn off our cameras when requested out of respect for the sacred nature of these hunts.
But our job is to share the buffalo's story with the world and when people begin to act irresponsibly or disrespectfully toward the buffalo it is up to us to speak the truth. The events of recent weeks have been especially difficult as we've found it necessary to express our strong opposition to the tribal slaughter agreements. But backing a trailer up to a cage in Yellowstone where buffalo are confined and transporting them to slaughter has nothing to do with tradition or the sacred or sovereign rights of tribes. By participating in such activities the tribes are actively assisting with the destruction of the Yellowstone herds and providing cover to the shameful actions of the livestock industry and the government agencies preventing the buffalo from accessing and re-inhabiting their native habitat.
Our actions are not motivated by disrespect for the tribes but, rather, by the respect we hold for the buffalo and their right to be wild and free.
* Man Blocks Road to Yellowstone Bison Trap
Photo by Deby Dixon. Click image for larger view.
Comfrey Jacobs, a volunteer with Buffalo Field Campaign, risked his own freedom to help free the buffalo, by blocking the access road to Yellowstone's Stephens Creek bison trap on Thursday morning. For more than two hours, he stalled trailers from getting to the trap to load buffalo for slaughter. Comfrey's action has drawn a huge outpouring of public support and awareness, and an incredible amount of media attention to this issue. "Comfrey Jacobs is a hero to a whole lot of people," said BFC's Executive Director Dan Brister. "He has given hope and inspiration to thousands of people who are upset by the slaughter of America's last wild buffalo."
BFC Press Release: Man Blocks Road to Yellowstone Bison Trap
BFC Press Release: Bison Activist Charged and Released
BFC volunteer photo: Comfrey Jacobs Blocks Trap Access Road
BFC volunteer photo: Agents attempt to undo blockade
Deby Dixon photo: Agents move Comfrey with a tractor
Deby Dixon photo: Agents with Comfrey
BFC volunteer photo: Livestock trailers with buffalo drive away from trap
BFC volunteer photo: A welder attempts to remove Comfrey from his barrel
BFC volunteer photo: Welding continues
BFC volunteer photo: Welding still going on...
BFC will have a video of Comfrey's action out in next week's Update, and there are some really great news articles in the "Buffalo News" section below.
*The Decimation of America's Last Wild Buffalo Population
Drazil, a BFC volunteer, perfectly illustrates the line in the sand and a buffalo's "options" for living wild an free. Click image for larger view.
Before this year's killing began, the wild buffalo population was estimated at 4,600. This is a very small number for an animal that once numbered in the tens of millions. Migratory bison are ecologically extinct, and current actions through capture, slaughter, hunting, and research have now literally decimated these last wild herds. The current death toll for this winter stands at 582 buffalo, which may be even higher by the time you receive this email. The agencies implementing the Interagency Bison Management Plan have nearly reached their politically-derived quota of 600 wild buffalo.
Yellowstone's Stephens Creek buffalo trap is now empty. At least 160 wild buffalo were captured a week ago Friday, bringing the total number captured this winter to at least 450. This is an estimate, as the seven-mile closure around the trap makes it impossible for BFC to get an accurate count. Yellowstone has not told the public how many buffalo they have captured. We continue to request media tours of the trap but are continually ignored. Yellowstone's public information officer told us on Tuesday that the Park "is choosing this year to focus on the stated [IBMP] goal of population reduction," which means we are only going to be told how many buffalo have been shipped to slaughter, and only if we call them repeatedly. Bison advocates aren't the only ones upset by this lack of transparency; reporters are taken aback by it as well. While we have been getting some information, Yellowstone still has not issued a single press release. Superintendent Dan Wenk is trying to set an unacceptable precedent by not publicly disclosing the Park's shameful actions.
ITBC stock trailers drive over the Corwin Springs bridge, hauling more wild buffalo to slaughter. Just across the road are captive bison USDA-APHIS has imprisioned for use in research with the chemical birth control pesticide GonaCon. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for large image.
Last Thursday and Friday, then again this Wednesday and Thursday, more buffalo were shipped to slaughter facilities by the InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC) and the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT). Still others were shipped to APHIS research facilities. On Thursday, shipments were stalled due to the courageous action of Comfrey Jacobs (see above). The Nez Perce tribe has recently signed a slaughter agreement, though they have yet to take buffalo to slaughter. It is important to note that within the Nez Perce tribe--as within the CSKT and ITBC member tribes--many tribal members are upset about their governments and boards entering into these slaughter agreements with the National Park Service.
Yellowstone's chief scientist told us just today how many buffalo were shipped this week. And we now know that a total of 318 buffalo have been sent to slaughter and research: 157 went to slaughter by the ITBC, 101 went to slaughter by the CSKT, and 60 went to APHIS for use in research. The Stephens Creek buffalo trap is empty. With our estimate of 460 captured, and a total of 318 buffalo being killed or removed, we asked Yellowstone if they had released any, and they said that buffalo that did not meet certain age and sex requirements were released. Yellowstone says they currently do not have plans to capture more buffalo, but that could change. Patrols in Gardiner report that the hundreds of buffalo that were in the Gardiner Basin buffalo have turned south, now moving a little deeper into Yellowstone.
Perfectly formed and only six weeks away from being born, a buffalo calf, still attached to the womb, is discarded in his mother's gut pile, left by Treaty hunters. Adult female buffalo are taking the brunt of the killing through hunting and slaughter. BFC photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger view.
In addition to the hundreds of buffalo being slaughtered from within Yellowstone, dozens are being killed by tribal hunters when they attempt to migrate out. While the tribes are officially hunting under their treaty rights, they are being forced by the US and Montana governments to conduct their hunt at the most inhumane time possible.
With calving season just six weeks away, the hunt is in full swing. BFC patrols have found fully formed buffalo fetuses discarded in the gut piles of their mothers. This is the worst possible time of year to hunt any animal, and there is no justification for killing pregnant buffalo so close to parturition.
Currently, bison are only "tolerated" in Montana at the times of year they can be killed by hunters. Because hunting is prohibited within Yellowstone and because the heaviest migrations occur in late winter and early spring, tribal hunts tend to be focused on this time of year.
On the left, Jimmy St. Goddard, his son, and members of BFC along the Old Yellowstone Trail. Jimmy confronted a tribal hunt party to talk with them about the killing of the buffalo. The hunters were not pleased. On the right, Jimmy prays for the baby buffalo and the pregnant females who have been killed by hunters. BFC photos by Peter and Stephany, respectively. Click photo for larger image.
After learning about the buffalo fetuses being discarded on the landscape by hunters, Jimmy St. Goddard of the Blackfeet Confederacy brought his family to the Gardiner Basin in hopes of reaching an accord with the hunters. As a tribal hunting party was shooting into a group of buffalo Jimmy called out to them to stop. He asked them to stop killing the mothers who were carrying babies, and to stop allowing the U.S. government to lie to them. The hunters shouted that they have a treaty right to be there, and Jimmy agreed. He reminded them that the Blackfeet do as well, but that they chose not to exercise that right because of the dishonor to the buffalo and because they wanted no part in the government's plan. He offered the hunters buffalo from the Blackfeet herd to feed their families. Some of the hunters laughed at him before continuing to shoot buffalo. They ended up killing fifteen from that group, including adult females.
An adult cow buffalo in a blizzard. Like this photo, the future for wild buffalo is blurry.... Will we learn to live in a way that enables them to survive humans? BFC photo by Stephany. Click image for larger view.
Adult cow buffalo, most of which are pregnant at this time of year, are taking the brunt of the killing from both slaughter and hunting. There have also been very few mature bulls observed in the Gardiner Basin lately, when three years ago there were hundreds. The IBMP's stated reasons for killing and controlling buffalo seem to have shifted away from brucellosis and onto population reduction. Brucellosis has always been a weak excuse, and it has steadily lost ground as the public has become more informed. Now the focus seems to be on "population control" and the false idea that there are "surplus" wild buffalo. There are not. This is an ecologically extinct native being that currently occupies less than 1% of its former habitat. The IBMP aims to reduce the population --the most significant one in all the world--to 3,000-3,500 and keep it there, while Yellowstone National Park's carrying capacity study determined that the Park alone could sustain upwards of 6,200 wild buffalo. And Yellowstone is surrounded by public and private lands that could sustain thousands more.
It's not rocket science to figure out that this is a scheme crafted by livestock interests to prevent the establishment of a resident herd of wild buffalo in Montana. If the buffalo are to survive and to thrive we must abolish the Interagency Bison Management Plan and the law that gives the Montana Department of Livestock authority over these ancient beings. Doing so rests in all of our hands.
WILD IS THE WAY ~ ROAM FREE!
*TAKE ACTION TO STOP THE SLAUGHTER!
1. CONTACT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: Please call Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk at (307) 344-2002, and also send him a letter to urge him to stop the 2014 buffalo slaughter that is currently underway and to fully disclose to the public what is going on at Yellowstone's Stephens Creek buffalo trap.
2. CONTACT TRIBAL GOVERNMENT: Contact the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes and urge them to stop taking buffalo to slaughter.
3. CONTACT TRIBAL CORPORATION: Contact the InterTribal Buffalo Council board of directors and member tribes and urge them to end the betrayal and stop the slaughter!
4. CONTACT MONTANA GOVERNMENT: Contact Montana Governor Steve Bullock and urge him to champion wild buffalo in Montana by increasing access to habitat and ending the Montana Department of Livestock's authority over wild buffalo!
5. Visit our page to contact other decision-makers who need to hear from you and please share the links to these take action alerts on Facebook and other social media outlets. And please consider joining us on the front lines. See below for details. Thank you!
* The Buffalo Need You. Volunteer or Donate Today.
If you have ever dreamed of standing with buffalo and fighting for their rights to be wild, NOW IS THAT TIME! BFC is in need of caring people to make this sacred sacrifice to help the buffalo. Buffalo Field Campaign invites you to join us on the front lines, here on the edge of the world's first national park, to defend America's last wild, migratory buffalo. State, federal, and tribal governments are in the process of capturing and killing hundreds of wild bison. They aim to reduce the already vulnerable population of America's last wild, migratory buffalo to a mere 3,000 animals.
We need more people to stand with us and protect the buffalo. Please, if you have ever thought about coming out we need help from now until the end of May. BFC provides room, board, gear, and training while the wildlife and wild lands provide incredible inspiration. Please visit our volunteer page to fill out an application or email our volunteer coordinators or 406-646-0070. Bring your passion and your ideas. See you on the front lines!
If you can not join us in person we could still use your help. Please use the DONATE NOW button below to make a tax-deductible contribution to our important work for the buffalo.
Thanks for giving us the honor of standing with these sacred beings and please come experience it for yourselves, it will change your life.
WITH THE BUFFALO,
* Buffalo in the News
Protester attempts to stop bison slaughter in Yellowstone
Protester blocks bison slaughter vans in Yellowstone
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Bison protester arrested, charged for blocking road
Man blocks road to Yellowstone bison trap
Montana bison harvest a 'shameful disgrace'
Jackson Hole News and Guide
Bison quarantine study released amid slaughter debates
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
WARNING: Institutionalized quarantine, or the domestication of wild, migratory bison, could be coming!
* BFC's 2015 Wild Bison Calendar: SUBMIT YOUR PHOTOS & ART
WE ARE NOW ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS FOR 2015! Help others fall in love with wild buffalo so that we have a chance to save them from extinction! If you have high resolution photos, artwork, poetry, quotes, or interesting natural facts about wild buffalo, please contact Stephany for details.
Don't miss out on BFC's 2014 Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country Calendar! This is likely our best calendar yet, with absolutely stunning photos of wild buffalo in their native habitat, incredible artwork, and inspiring quotes, facts, and poetry. ORDER NOW
Thank you to everyone who has made our Wild Bison calendars such a huge success! This is one of our favorite projects as it allows all of us to celebrate wild buffalo 365 days a year!
* Participate in BFC's Summer Program!
BFC is looking for at least six people to help us spread the word to save the herds this Summer. BFC is looking for help from June until the first week of September. The positions would entail working in our Buffalo Museum in West Yellowstone, Montana, tabling and camping inside Yellowstone National Park, and going to music festivals and Summer events. Each week we will have you do a different job so you would not be stuck doing one thing the whole Summer. If spending your Summer in the Yellowstone ecosystem and helping save the buffalo is something that interests you please contact Mike. I promise this will be a summer you will never forget.
*By the Numbers
The last wild, migratory buffalo populations are currently estimated at fewer than 4,020 individual animals, living in and around Yellowstone National Park. Wild, migratory bison are ecologically extinct throughout their native range in North America.
Total Buffalo Killed: 582
Government Capture: 450 (+/-)
Buffalo Released from Capture: unknown
Tribal - ITBC Slaughter: 157
Tribal - CSKT Slaughter: 101
Tribal - Nez Perce Slaughter: 0
Died in Government Trap:
Died in Government Research Facility**: 1
Miscarriage in Government Trap:
State Hunt: 31
Treaty Hunts: 232
Sent to Quarantine:
Sent to APHIS Research Facility: 60
Shot by Agents:
Highway Mortality: 1
Cause of Death Unknown:
Total Killed in Previous Years*
Total Killed Since 2000: 4,820
*includes lethal government action, trap-related fatalities, quarantine/experiments, hunts, and highway deaths
**bison stolen from the wild and placed in APHIS research facilities (such as for GonaCon) have already been counted as being "eliminated from the population" so bison that have died in a government research facility are not reflected in the total.
*Last Words of Buffalo Inspiration
"Killing [the buffalo] is senseless and outrageous. In terms of tourist dollars, they are worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year. In terms of the heritage of the American West, they are priceless."
~ Steve Braun, owner of Adventure Yellowstone, Inc.
From this Reuters article.
Please send us your submissions for Last Words. Thank you for all the poems, songs, quotes and stories you've contributed! Keep them coming!