|Momma bison and calf, Yellowstone 2016|
In the long ago time before now,
Great Spirit covered the land with abundance.
Stretching beyond what an eagle could see,
Buffalo walked in harmony
As far as the wind could blow,
Uncountable as flakes of snow.
Given to humans
So they would never know hunger,
Never suffer cold,
Never be lonely.
Great Spirit required
Only gratitude and a living prayer
For harmony and peace among all beings,
Remembering and honoring
The interconnection of everything.
So the story goes.
But, what I want to know is,
What did the buffalo get out of this deal?
And, now that we humans cover the land,
in numbers greater than the buffalo of old,
What gets to eat us?
John Fire Lame Deer tells us:
The buffalo gave us everything we needed. Without it we were nothing. Our tipis were made of his skin. His hide was our bed, our blanket, our winter coat. It was our drum, throbbing through the night, alive, holy. Out of his skin we made our water bags. His flesh strengthened us, became flesh of our flesh. Not the smallest part of it was wasted. His stomach, a red-hot stone dropped into it, became our soup kettle. His horns were our spoons, the bones our knives, our women's awls and needles. Out of his sinews we made our bowstrings and thread. His ribs were fashioned into sleds for our children, his hoofs became rattles. His mighty skull, with the pipe leaning against it, was our sacred altar. The name of the greatest of all Sioux was Tatanka Iyotake--Sitting Bull. When you killed off the buffalo you also killed the Indian--the real, natural, "wild" Indian (Fire, 130). (See also Traditional Use of the Bison from the National Bison Association)