Friday, 27 April 2012

The Return of the Buffalo: A Triumphant Symbol of Survival and Renewal

An article in the New York Times describes the return of buffalo to the prairies of Montana. The buffalo are descended from a small herd that remained hidden in Yellowstone Park and escaped the ravages of buffalo hunters in the late 1800’s.

The article also tells of the uproar that the return of the buffalo has caused. But it is apparently just the herd that the indigenous peoples of the area will manage that is the focus of objection—not other buffalo herds who are not in indigenous hands. The article explains:

“...tribe members say they see an ugly double standard in the fact that there are more than 130 private bison ranches in the state, including one belonging to the mogul Ted Turner housing dozens of controversial Yellowstone bison, and yet only the Fort Peck herd has been visited by protesters.”

The article further explains the significance that this herd will have to the present day indigenous peoples. The buffalo represent a tie to ancestors and the past, as well as having spiritual functions and in a very pragmatic way will contribute to a healthy diet:
““I call them my brothers and sisters because they are a genetic link to the same ones my ancestors hunted,” said Tote Gray Hawk, 54, a Sioux who has brought the Fort Peck bison hay and water each day since their arrival. Their meat, lower in cholesterol than beef, will feed elderly tribe members and their skulls will be used in traditional sun dance ceremonies, he said.”

Buffalo once provided nearly all the necessities of life for the indigenous peoples of the North American prairies—hides for shelter and clothing, food, use in spiritual ceremonies.

The return of the buffalo also has symbolic importance. The return of the buffalo can be seen as a triumph for the indigenous people—a triumph of survival and renewal against the odds for both.

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