to a very dear and old brother-friend, Tatankangi
This is an article regarding the Buffalo and the Native American. Biologists, who apparently were born speaking Latin, insist on the term Bison being used and are reputed to froth at the mouth when it is not; well, Bio-Dudes, sorry….tried to find a Bison Nickel, no go….so Buffalo they are and Buffalo they remain!
One of the deepest mysteries to me, is not so much how various groups (ok, races, in you insist) of people can maltreat another group (ok, race, if you again insist) of people, but how they can do it so callously. How can they manage to not only live with themselves within the memories of what they or their people have done not only to the defeated, so-to-speak, but to basically every living creature upon the land they suddenly deem is theirs.
Part of this mystery to me, is why, when a migrating people is doing so because the land they are leaving is no longer capable of sustaining them and basically worn out, Europe for example, they “find” a pristine world where the people there are already living in complete harmony with the earth; where those same people are ready to teach them how to do so as well: the first thing they do is bring every attitude and prejudice and gluttonous experience they were attempting to escape, out into the open and set them in motion.
It is said that some people seem simply not able to exist unless misery is in their lives. I begin to believe that the vast majority of peoples upon the face of this earth, are just so.
This is not the time nor the article to get into “religious” types of discussion, so I will not. However, for those folks who are so inclined to hold to the very letter of The Book with the severity of a lawyer being handed his/her first case: The Book says, that man was to tend and care for the animals, not exterminate them.
What the euro-migration (trying to find and use somewhat neutral words here), did to the majestic herds of buffalo/bison, and thus to the Native American, can be in no other way described save as insane greed.
It is estimated, depending on the source you look into, that once the numbers of Mother Earth’s Buffalo ran from 30,000,000 to 70,000,000. By somewhere around 1840, that number was: 1,500. Look at the numbers again. Let them, truly sink in. For what? Some hats and coats for dandies back East, for the most part. Yes, I know, some of the meat went to various rail road gangs, etc. And that is a fine explanation for those who have not graduated from reading See Spot Run. But the fact is, basically 76 percent of every buffalo shot was left where they lay. The skin was taken, some of the meat depending, the rest rotted and went to the scavengers.
In the meanwhile, this slaying drove a knife into the very heart of the Spirituality of the Native American, most especially the Plains Indians. It is disgustingly ironic that if anyone were to dispatch a boatload of folks over to India and have them pile out to begin shooting the “cows” there, America and the rest of the world would blow a gasket.
What happens here? Basically nothing. What continues to happen? Basically nothing. Oh, to be sure, there are a few that are striving to “bring back the Buffalo”….and I suppose, if one wishes to look at it that way, they are succeeding. It is said the Buffalo now numbers around 200,000. Not much of a comparative success in my book. Especially when you find out a great number of those are not necessarily to “restore” the Buffalo, but rather are breeding stock for the commerical sale of Buffalo meat. Which is another fad rising its head again.
Why do we need this? Just put a Buffalo stamp on a beef steak, most of America would never know the difference, and this would be a minor infraction considering the stuff they do to the cattle nowadays, and the “preservatives” they put into the meats.
Besides, while I do not know the figures, not even sure they are attainable; but, in my near 60 years of walking this earth, I have encountered many, and I mean many, people who have never seen a cow. Most just go into the grocery store and buy “meat” that happens to be called beef, pork, lamb. They never give a thought, if in fact they do know, that it comes not from the fruit of a meat tree, but a real living (at one time) animal. And they most assuredly do not cook it, nor eat it with the reverence the Native American had for the Buffalo.
The cry in America today, because of dwindling resources and whatnot, is RECYCLE. Here, this is how the Native American recycled. Perhaps the non-Indian could begin to learn this time; perhaps, but I doubt it. Many people, many books, many sayings, many articles have stated over the years how the Native American “used all of the Buffalo”. I believe that most have heard that statement and really never considered the full truth of it. So, here, take a look of just how inclusive the Buffalo was in the life of the Native American.
BUFFALO RAWHIDE: Containers – Shields – Buckets – Moccasins – Drum Heads – Splints – Mortars; Cinches – Ropes – Sheaths/Quivers - Bull Boats – Masks – Parfleche – Ornaments – Lariats; Straps – Head Coverings – Quirts – Tipis – Snowshoes - Shrouds
BUFFALO CHIN BEARD: Ornamentations (everyday and spiritual) – Dolls - Mittens
BUFFALO TEETH: Ornamentation (everyday and spiritual) – game pieces
BUFFALO TONGUE: Meat - Combs
BUFFALO BLADDER: Pouches - Medicine Bags – Water Bags
BUFFALO TENDONS: Sinews – Sewing – Bowstrings - Bindings
BUFFALO BUCKSKIN (treated leather): Cradles – Moccasins – Robes – Bedding – Shirts; Belts – Leggings – Dresses – Bags – Quivers - Tipi Covers - Tipis Liners – Reins/Halters; Backrests – Tapestries – Sweat Lodge Covers
BUFFALO BLOOD: Soups – Puddings - Paints
BUFFALO FAT: Tallow – Soaps - Hair Grease - Cosmetic Aids
BUFFALO TAIL: Medicine Switch - Fly Brush – Decorations - Whips
BUFFALO MEAT: Sausages – Roasts - Cached Meat - Jerky – Pemmican ingredient
BUFFALO GALL: Yellow Paints
BUFFALO HIND LEG SKIN: Moccasins
BUFFALO HOOFS, FEET & DEWCLAWS: Glue – Rattles - Spoons
BUFFALO LIVER: Tanning Agents – Food – Medicine
BUFFALO SKULL: Spiritual significance in Sun Dances - Medicine Prayers - Other Rituals
BUFFALO BRAIN: Hide Preparation (Tanning) - Food
BUFFALO MUSCLES: Glue Preparation – Bows – Thread – Arrow Ties - Cinches
BUFFALO CHIPS (EXCREMENT): Fuel - Diaper Powder – Toys - Jewelry
So, is it any wonder that the Native American did, and does, hold the Buffalo in such sacred regard and respect coupled with honor? And is this not a tragic thing to have taken from a people?