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The Slaughter of a Sacred Animal, a repeat of history?


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Buffalo and newborn calf.

Non-natives, for the maintenance of cattle in the West, have constantly exterminated bison.

In the 1870s, the vast majority of the bison, also known as buffalo, population declined. This was due to the easy access to guns and horses for hunting as well as the growing market for the buffalo’s bones and hides.However, with the demand for hides also came the demand for beef. Cattle ranchers wanted to remove bison from the plains to make room for cattle breeding in the increasing market.

Between 1870 and 1873 more than 4.5 million buffalo were wiped out in order to remove natives and force them onto reservations and get bison out of the way for cattle.

As Natives, especially in the West and Great Plains culture, bison are a scared animal. John Fire Lame Deer, a Mineconju-Lakota Sioux holy man, sums up the meaning of the bison amongst native people here:

“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.”

According to an article in the Huffington Post, Yellowstone National Park is considering plans to slaughter hundreds of buffalo that crossover park lines for the benefit of Montanan cattle. The mass slaughter will be conducted to lower bison population from 4,500 back down to 3,000-3,500. Wildlife experts in the West are furious about the animal discrimination against bison due to the cattle ranchers’ prosperity.

Buffalo, as such an important aspect in Western native culture and livelihood should be treated with respect and allowed to grow and prosper the way they had once done hundreds of years ago. As a national park for the protection of Wildlife and land, Yellowstone should not allow for the depletion of a currently threatened species and a scared animal for so many. For these plans to be conducted would be an unbelievable repeat of history.

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