*Update from the Field: The Killing Begins; Blackfeet Spiritual Leader Appeals to First Nations
A bull buffalo mourns, after finding the remains of buffalo relatives killed just outside of Yellowstone National Park's boundary. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
Earlier in the season than we would have imagined, the blood of the buffalo has begun to spill. Since our last writing, at least fourteen of America's last wild buffalo were killed by treaty hunters with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes.
This particular migration from Yellowstone into Montana is unusual in how early it is. Rather than the buffalo's early arrival being a source for celebration, this particular journey was met with fatal consequence. Years ago this killing would have been done by the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL). Instead they sit back and smile as the most unlikely ones -- the relatives of the buffalo -- do their dirty deeds for them, in the name of sovereignty. To complicate matters, Montana passed a law earlier this year that allows officials to reveal the locations of buffalo to state and treaty hunters. Tribes hunting under treaty rights set their own quotas and seasons, which span from September to April. The Montana state hunt begins next Friday, November 15, and will last three months, until February 15, 2014. Wild buffalo will be under the gun for six full months.
The day before the first-ever National Bison Day (see below) was to be celebrated, one relative spoke out strongly against these killings and for the protection of his buffalo kin, appealing to all First Nations. Here is the letter from Blackfeet Confederacy Spiritual Leader and Holy Paint Gatherer, Jimmy St. Goddard:
To All Chairs and Presidents of Indian Nations, Indian Leaders, And Government Officials:
The buffalo EE-NEE-WAH have asked me to convey this message. We know you respect the buffalo. We know you have the right to hunt the buffalo. But the ancient buffalo in Yellowstone have been decimated and have not recovered.
In the Hayden and Pelican valleys in the Central Interior of Yellowstone National Park, the buffalo have felt the brunt of this slaughter. Their population is well under half of what it was just a few winters ago.
We need to send a message to the whites, we need to send a message to the white Governments: to let this ancient buffalo herd regenerate itself.
Your own Tribal policies and laws allow you to step back and reassess the situation. We have to get away from the thinking that if we don't do anything we will lose our Treaty rights.
Done properly, a resolution by the Tribes to place a moratorium on hunting the buffalo will strengthen our Treaty and cultural rights.
In a sacred way, we ask that you adopt a one or two year moratorium on hunting the buffalo to be set by your cultural leadership, specifically to your Tribal government.
This year and next year our cultures will grow, the buffalo will recover, and our children will learn that there is a way to bring the EE-NEE-WAH back.
Your treaty rights will always be in place to hunt on public lands.
To see and let our sacred animal grow again, multiply for the future generations, I ask this in the Blackfeet NA-SIST-AA-PEE -- real people -- way.
I want to share this message with the Tribal leaders that will accept this moratorium on the Yellowstone buffalo herd.
In February of 2012 I met with Senator Daniel Inouye in Washington DC. Daniel asked me what the Tribes could do to stay stronger. And he said just one thing that the Tribes could do, that no one could ever break not even the U.S. government, is for the Tribes to stand together with their traditions. I just wanted to share his message with you, Tribal leader, the late Senator Daniel Inouye said for us to stand together with our traditions.
There is also a sacred 8 or 9-year old bull in the herd that must be protected.
I ask you as the former culture chairman of the Blackfeet Tribe, and ongoing spiritual leader of the Eloise Cobell case.
I also want to reintroduce myself to your honorable Council, that I am one of the spiritual leaders of the Blackfoot Confederacy that encompasses the U.S. and Canada.
I am in no way influenced by the U.S. government or any other entity that has not understood our ancient traditional ways. I have been through most or all of the Eloise Cobell case. I have survived the Bush administration. I carry on our ancient traditions for my people.
I ask that your brilliant cultural minds implement this moratorium to save our sacred buffalo, and pray that this resolution or moratorium be implemented as soon as possible.
~ James St. Goddard EE-SUK-YA Holy Paint Gatherer, one of the ancient Blackfeet.
Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!
* BFC Joins Lakota Elders to Celebrate the First Ever "National Bison Day"
The buffalo have the ability to bridge enormous gulfs, including those unfathomable ones that exist between political parties: On October 30, every single member of the U.S. Senate voted in favor of a resolution designating November 2 as "National Bison Day." The bipartisan resolution's purpose, in part, is to recognize "a growing effort to celebrate and officially recognize the historical, cultural, and economic significance of the North American bison to the heritage of the United States."
Buffalo Field Campaign was given the honor of attending an event in South Dakota to celebrate this honoring of the sacred buffalo. BFC's co-founder Mike Mease and coordinator David Martin traveled to participate on this first-ever National Bison Day, also called "White Buffalo Day." David wrote of his experience, which we share with you here:
"Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, asked that Mike Mease and Lakota elder Rosalie Little Thunder -- co-founders of Buffalo Field Campaign -- speak along with other presenters for National Bison Day. Mike invited me to accompany him and film. When [the elders] spoke, there was a power in their words. They spoke so peacefully. They talked from their hearts; not from their minds. Everything they spoke of was important and sacred. It made me think, "these are my elders." They are the people I want to learn from. They are the leaders that will change the world. My whole experience of the first White Buffalo Day is indescribable. The wisdom of those elders changed me as a human. It reinforced my way to live with the animals, earth, and sky, not above them. Before White Buffalo Day I saw the buffalo with my eyes. After I saw them with my heart, I understood they are not just animals. The buffalo are our teachers, they are our kin, the buffalo are a better way to live."
* Update from the Courts
Gardiner basin habitat appeal moves ahead
Park County filed its opening brief last Thursday in the appeal of a Montana state district court decision that ruled against Park County and upheld the State's decision to expand habitat for migratory buffalo in Montana.
In January 2013, a favorable ruling by Montana District Court Judge E. Wayne Phillips protected additional habitat for wild buffalo to roam the Gardiner basin, including critical wintering range and spring calving grounds. Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds Project (WWP) intervened to represent the buffalo and their local supporters, and were represented at the district court level by BFC board member and attorney Ted Fellman and attorney Summer Nelson from WWP's Montana office. On appeal, BFC and WWP are represented by Summer Nelson.
Of the ten claims initially brought, Park County addressed only one claim in its opening brief to the higher court: whether law MCA 87-1-216 applies to migratory buffalo. Park County claims that MCA 87-1-216 prohibits buffalo "on any private or public land in Montana that has not been authorized for that use by the private or public owner." However, as the district court held, the recent amendments in that statute which Park County refers to, "are inapplicable to decisions made by the [Department of Livestock] and [Fish, Wildlife and Parks] in regards to the Yellowstone National Park bison population and the adoption of the [Adaptive Management Adjustments to the Interagency Bison Management Plan]." The act was created simply to require Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to develop a management plan before releasing or transplanting buffalo onto lands in other areas of the state.
Notably missing from the appealing parties are the Park County Stockgrowers Association and Montana Farm Bureau Federation who initially brought the suit.
This case underscores the importance of local support for migratory buffalo, as Judge Phillips relied on that local support for buffalo in his ruling. BFC and WWP will continue to fight Park County's claims on appeal, and support this incremental but important step for wild buffalo in Montana. Our response to Park County's arguments on appeal is due December 2.
Thank you Summer Nelson and Western Watersheds Project for representing the buffalo and their local supporters before the Montana Supreme Court!
Grizzly bear suit to be heard in 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
We would like to send a loud shout out to the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and their attorneys Rebecca K. Smith and Timothy Bechtold, who will present oral arguments before the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Seattle WA on November 8.
The Alliance is arguing that using helicopters to haze and harass buffalo in the Gallatin National Forest and Yellowstone National Park also harasses threatened Yellowstone grizzly bears, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act. All studies show that low-altitude helicopters present a high risk to grizzly bears and cause them to flee in panic in almost all recorded incidences. The time of year when hazing occurs is a critical time for grizzly bears to feed on carcasses after a five to six month long fasting period, and this time of year is the most likely time for grizzlies to die a natural death. The Alliance argues that incidentally harassing and displacing grizzly bears during this biologically critical time period violates the Endangered Species Act because the agencies have never obtained a permit for this activity from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Buffalo Field Campaign volunteers have provided invaluable support for this suit by providing reams of eyewitness testimony documenting grizzly bear disturbances and the presence of this threatened species while buffalo were being harassed off their habitat with a helicopter.
A three-judge panel will determine if the state and federal agencies will continue to get away with their unlawful conduct. The Alliance is requesting a public analysis on how this action affects grizzly bears, and is also requesting the implementation of legally enforceable restrictions to protect grizzly bears.
Thank you Rebecca K. Smith, Timothy Bechtold, and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies for fighting to protect the threatened Yellowstone grizzly bear, and helping our wild buffalo in the process! Stay tuned!
* Rent this Cabo San Lucas Penthouse Suite to Support BFC
Thanks to the generosity of longtime BFC supporter Tom Fellman, we will be holding a fundraising auction for a week-long stay (January 11-18, 2014) in an Oceanview Penthouse suite in Los Cabos, Mexico. Bidding will open on 10/31 and run until 11/14, 2013.
This majestic 3-bedroom Oceanview Penthouse Suite sits at the exquisite Hacienda del Mar Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico. The master suite features a Jacuzzi and king-size bed, while two secondary bedrooms each have 2 queen size beds, each with their own private bathroom. Add the pullout sofa and this luxury suite easily sleeps 8 to 12 guests. This beautifully decorated suite offers air conditioning, TV, telephone, and a full kitchen with a microwave oven, stove, and refrigerator.
Click here to view the auction and photos of the resort.
Please share with those who might be interested in this winter getaway.
* Lifetime Collective: Pearl Jam (Again) Honors Wild Buffalo and the Work of BFC
The clothing company Lifetime, whose roots reach back to the design of t-shirts for the skate and snow culture, has collaborated with Pearl Jam to honor wild buffalo and the work of Buffalo Field Campaign. BFC's recent road show event in Seattle, hosted by Pearl Jam's fan club, Ten Club, kicked off this special collaboration. These BFC-inspired pieces are practical and fashionable, and proceeds will go directly to BFC to help fund our work to stop the slaughter and harassment of America's last wild buffalo. The clothing depicts an exciting image of a buffalo, with the words 'Pearl Jam' and 'Seattle" circling it. Each item also has a write up crafted by BFC's Director Dan Brister, author of the acclaimed book "In the Presence of Buffalo."
You can view and order these special articles HERE
You can also check out a recent Mark Richard interview with Pearl Jam, where they discuss their new album, Lightning Bolt, and during which they speak of the causes they support and mention the buffalo. View and listen here.
THANK YOU PEARL JAM!
* BOOK: BFC Director Dan Brister's "In the Presence of Buffalo" Belongs in Your Hands
"In the Presence of Buffalo: Working to Stop the Yellowstone Slaughter," is the long-awaited book by BFC Director Dan Brister that was published in July by Graphic Arts Books. Reviews have been very positive (see links below), and the book has been selling well. "In the Presence of Buffalo" is a unique and inspiring work shedding light on the history and current management of wild buffalo, their deep relationship with First Nations, and the livestock industry's use of force to maintain control of vast expanses of public lands. Dan digs painfully deep at times as he weaves personal stories with those of the buffalo. The power of "In the Presence of Buffalo" comes directly from Dan's firsthand experiences and his powerful writing. Dan breathes new life into a traditional American theme. Everyone who values wild buffalo should have a copy of this book.
ORDER NOW via BFC's merch page and proceeds will directly benefit Buffalo Field Campaign's important work.
If you've already read it, please take the time to share your thoughts on Amazon, Goodreads, and elsewhere. The more people who read this book, the more informed, inspired, and widespread will be the buffalo's network of support.
from the Publisher's Weekly Review:
"...Brister stirs up frustration in this visceral portrayal of the wasting of one of our great natural resources...Brister presents a strong thorough argument but his book is more than just animal rights advocacy. It's a personal, cultural, political examination of the buffalo's place in a human world."
from one of the Amazon Customer Reviews:
"This book will break your heart, piss you off, and maybe – just maybe – inspire you to fight injustice and cruelty wherever you find it. 'In the Presence of Buffalo' is an American masterpiece."
from the Sonoron Connection Review:
"Dan's and the Buffalo Field Campaign's story is an inspiration to all of us who cherish wild creatures and shows that we can stand up against those who would destroy them. If this book doesn't move you to take action, nothing will. Perhaps the truth will set the Yellowstone buffalo free."
* 2014 Wild Bison Calendars Available
BFC's 2014 Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country calendars are now available! This is the fourth year we've had the honor of working with our supporters through their photographs, art, and text to create a calendar that celebrates wild buffalo 365 days a year. Artists and photographers both familair and new are featured this year, and their fantastic work demonstrates their deep love of these gentle giants. These calendars are great for your home or office and make fantastic gifts.
* 2013/2014 Newsletters: Help BFC Spread the Word
Our 2014 print newsletter is loaded with updates, images, and actions you can take to help the buffalo. BFC's newsletter has something for everyone, whether you are new to the issue or a seasoned wild buffalo advocate. If your address has changed, if you would like to be added to our mailing list, or if you would like us to send you a stack of newsletters to distribute in your community, please contact our office coordinator, Rain, with your mailing address at email@example.com or 406-646-0070.
*By the Numbers
The last wild buffalo populations are currently estimated at fewer than 4,600 individual animals, living in and around Yellowstone National Park. Wild bison are ecologically extinct throughout their native range in North America.
Total Buffalo Killed: 14
Buffalo Released from Capture:
Held for Government Experiment:
Died In Government Trap:
Miscarriage in Government Trap:
Treaty Hunts: 14
Shot by Agents:
Cause of Death Unknown:
Total Killed in Previous Years
Total Killed Since 2000: 4,270
*includes lethal government action, trap-related fatalities, quarantine/experiments, hunts, and highway deaths
*Last Words of Buffalo Inspiration
"You cannot take from him without giving to him first. Did you hear what I said? You must first give to him before you can take from him."
~ Ray Hunt, (1929-2009). Master of communication with horses. While these words from Ray were meant to help horses, they certainly apply to the buffalo as well.
Please send us your submissions for Last Words. Thank you for all the poems, songs, quotes and stories you've contributed! Keep them coming!