Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Return to Balance: Wild Bison, Wild People, Wilderness and Wonderful Wildness Generally
As winter approaches here in Wyoming, in the northwest corner of the state and just across the border a group of activists are preparing to do their part to protect the bison of Yellowstone. Being migratory critters, they of course try to migrate, and these millions of years old instincts lead a number of these animals out of the borders of the park and into Montana, where they are apparently not very welcome. Though the transmission of bruscellosis from bison to cattle is rare, and there are very few cattle that utilize the area the Montana Department of Livestock has made it a practice to slaughter those bison seeking to migrate to lower elevations to survive the winter.
The Buffalo Field Campaign (formerly known as Buffalo Nations) stands ground with these big bovines, else attempts to herd them back into the park to hinder the slaughter. In the winter of 96-97 (nineteen-nineties, mind you, not eighteen-nineties) eleven hundred bison were killed by the state of Montana. I chanced to meet some of the activists who worked alongside Native Americans herding and otherwise protecting these great ungulates when I was living on the Navajo (or more properly, Dine) Rez in Arizona to stand with a people who are likewise being harassed by the government, and was told by a fellow activist of the mindlessly bloodthirsty attitudes of those payed to "cull" these magnificent creatures who once freely roamed the expanse of western North America.
To find out about and help these brave folks resisting the continued slaughter of Yellowstone's bison herds, check out http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/
To connect with Black Mesa Indigenous Support's site regarding the persecution of elders and others resisting removal at Big Mountain in Arizona see http://blackmesais.org/
Anyhow, regarding the issue of the American Bison more generally, a number of years ago I came across an interesting concept devised that would seek to connect and expand a series of protected grasslands throughout the Great Plains region of the United States and Canada so the American Bison and the prairie ecosystem generally might once again abide a bit more free and naturally. Though the most well known formulation of the concept presents ecotourism as the economic justification for this use of vast tracts of the Midwest and West, I would also likewise like to see the return of traditional modes of harvesting these great beasties, where hunters on horseback with spears and bows and arrows run with the herds, as did the natives of the Great Plains in days of yore. Imagine Native American young men given the opportunity to train and guide wealthy white men to hunt a bison from horseback, like on Dances With Wolves, only the white guys are paying a premium to live out their childhood dream of playing indian on the hunt.
I suppose this idea wouldn't necessarily be separate from the concept of ecotourism, though indeed, it should Native American Indian control of this resource, once restored. Non-natives could pay a few thousand bucks to hunt a Bison, and natives could harvest and sell a sustainable portion of the great herds, supplanting slaughtered cattle (who are more properly used for dairy products, if kept in humane conditions) on the shelves of grocery stores and butcher shops. Indeed, to eat a wild and free till death beast seems clearly the more respectful and humane than to raise a cow from birth to death, confine it for half its life in pens standing around in their own shit, etc., not to mention the healthier content of bison meat than cattle.
Imagine herds of millions once again roaming nigh freely from Canada to Mexico along corridors designed to allow migration with minimal interference by or to traffic and agriculture and communities bordering these corridors. Imagine the pride and strength of the Plains Tribes Peoples restored, as they could once again exist in harmony with their ancestral homeland and in appropriate relationship with these wild and sacred beasts, and likewise imagine the wonderment of white folks cruising any highway passing through these corridors as a herd of hundreds of thousands of great wild humpbacked bovines cross a beastie bypass over or under a span of roadway. Green jobs and a nigh extinguished spirit of freedom and healthy lifeway restored and interacting in harmony with modern society.
Imagine herds of millions once again roaming nigh freely from Canada to Mexico along corridors connecting and expanding existing parks and preserves and protected grasslands designed to allow migration with minimal interference by or to traffic and agriculture and communities bordering these corridors. Imagine the pride and strength of the Plains Tribes Peoples restored, as they could once again exist in harmony with their ancestral homeland and in appropriate relationship with these wild and sacred beasts, and the wonderment of white folks cruising any highway passing through these corridors as a herd of hundreds of thousands of great humpbacked wild bovines cross a beastie bypass over or under a span of roadway. Green jobs and a nigh extinguished spirit of freedom restored and interacting in harmony with modern society.