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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Running With The Buffalo

By: Dee

Many years ago, it is said, a devout young woman rose before dawn to pray. For it is the custom among her people, to rise and greet the morning star; one who does this may receive wisdom and enlightenment to help the people. So this is what she did.

In the distance, past the smoke rising from the nearby creek, she saw buffaloes. Buffaloes, buffaloes, buffaloes, lots and lots and lots of buffaloes! More than any could count, they were moving up the hill, higher and higher, till they reached a spot in the high rock, where they entered.

So it is said that the last of the wild buffalo were not killed by the whiteman; instead, they took refuge in a secret place deep in the mountain. A few buffalo remained on the surface world, to watch and listen. The whiteman's ways could not last forever. Sooner or later, he would either come to his senses, or destroy himself thru his own errors. And when the time was right, the sentries would call their relatives within the mountain, and they would return. Buffaloes, buffaloes, buffaloes, coming up from the ground, to live on earth again, to live good.

Several years ago, I woke up feeling better than I had felt in all of my life. A survivor of childhood abuse and many mishaps in adulthood, I felt very weak in mind and body, and had often wanted to die. But on that Easter Sunday I woke up from a sacred dream, I'd seen the buffaloes returning, running along the ridge, coming up from the ground. They ran straight toward me, full of strength and life even though some of them were only animated blackened skeletons. They spoke in my heart, told me that they, the Buffalo Nation, (that is, the species) prays all the time, prays for us pitiful humans, and for all living things. They promised me "a life full of life", if I would remember this, and give whatever I could, whenever I could, and give thanks to the Creator in all things.

For the past year or so I'd heard of buffaloes killed in Yellowstone. Over a thousand killed last year. This outrage went on because of misconceptions over brucellosis, a cattle disease. Public sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of the buffalo and against the slaughter, yet it continued. I did what I could. Fasted and prayed once a week, called the White House to protest. Gave all the money I could spare to groups such as Earthjustice Defense Fund, which recently gained a court order that no more than 100 buffalo would be killed this year, without getting another court order.

100 buffalo. That's a step in the right direction, but as many said, it's 100 too many. The buffalo are a people much like ours. They have families and friends and social structures much like ours. ("Only you gotta watch them," I'd joked to my partners on patrol, "Cos they're not happy to let the earth alone like we are. Turn your back on them a minute, and they've put in a railroad. Next thing you know, they put highways and condos and shopping malls all over the place! And big smelly dumpsters good for diving!") Seriously, though; how would you feel if 1000 people in your community, your extended family, were killed last year, and this year it was agreed that only 100 would be killed? It would be 100 too many.

On the Internet I'd read of a group called Buffalo Nations, frontlines activists who daily patrol the border of Yellowstone Park to prevent the killing of even one more buffalo. These strong and brave warriors rise daily before dawn, to be with the buffalo all day. So far, no buffalo had died this winter. I read their weekly posts with great admiration, included them in my weekly fasting and prayer, sent them whatever I could. I was thrilled to read in one of their messages, that they needed volunteers. Anyone was invited to come up and work. No special skills needed, just be willing to work.

The buffalo had done so much for me, could I do this small thing for them? I was 41 years old, born and raised in the deep South. No experience with mountains or snow. City born and bred, I'd grown soft. Would I be of any use? Or would it be better just to give them the money I'd spend getting up there?

Here I'd like to remind readers that I speak only for myself; I am not a member or spokesperson for Buffalo Nations or any other group. I wrote to Buffalo Nations, they wrote back. Come on up, they said. They'd be short handed over the winter holiday. Bring warm clothes, be willing to work, and I'd be fine. I prayed over this, had another dream, a dream of war to help protect the Earth. I was by far the oldest one in my cadre, and the only female. In the dream, I'd been chosen for my role because the directors recognised my character, I'd do the right thing.

I woke and remembered what the old ones say: that you can give money, cloth, tobacco, food, other gifts -- but these are things that came to you and you can give up. The only thing you really got to give that's really yours, is your own body, your own self. I went.

Buffalo Nations is composed of a core group who are committed for the long term, and who have been united into a family by a Pipe ceremony conducted last fall by Lakota elder Joe Chasing Horse. Near as I could tell, decisions are made by the core group, led by co-founder Mike Meese. In addition to this core group, there are many volunteers who come from all over the country and stay for as long as they can, a few days, a few weeks, even longer, do whatever they can. Many of these volunteers are longtime enviornmental activists, hardened to this sort of work; others are people like me, unlikely folks driven by visions, that they must give all to help protect the sacred buffalo. People from the North, acclimated to the cold and adept at acts such as skiing and snowmobiling, are most valued; but even someone like me, a middleaged southerner, was welcome, my contributions gladly accepted. Some locals who live near the Buffalo Nations cabin help with patrols as well; and many other locals have agreed to report buffalo sightings outside the park. Buffalo Nations has several offical media spokespersons in their core group; again I emphasise that I am not a spokesperson or even a member of the group. I am only a person who was privledged to work with them for a while, and who has been asked to write up my experiences.

The day after I arrived, I went out on afternoon patrol. There were reports that the buffalo had made their way to Koeltzner's ranch, a man we called "The Grinch". Buffalo in Yellowstone Park are of the Mountain subspecies, and it is their instinct to migrate to lower elevatoins when the snow falls. Buffalo don't suffer from cold like we do; they are the embodiment of life and strength. But they do need to eat, and their customary winter feeding grounds lie outside the park boundaries, along a certain migration route that they've developed before time began.

Koeltzner's ranch is right on their route! Koeltzner had installed a capture facility on his land, and spoke of the buffalos' movement as "trespassing". Several times while I was up there, a team of expert skiers entered his property before dawn, to herd buffalo from his land back into the park. In doing this they were trespassing, a misdemeanor, and for this many had stated that they were willing to be arrested. (Aside from trespass and similar acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, the group as far as I know is committed to legal and non-violent acts.) These predawn hazings were especially amazing, since hazing can be a noisy and dangerous operation. The Grinch had already called the DOL, and the buffalo were to be "handled" (probably, shot) later on that day. But somehow, the skiers were able to get into his yard before dawn and drive the buffalo from his land back into the park, and get away with it!

Once on patrol, I and several other volunteers met Koeltzner on the road. We offered to haze the buffalo from his land with his permission; he said he's "happy with the way the DOL is handling things", that is, killing buffalo! None of us knew why he was like this. As far as I know, no one has asked.

We called him "the Grinch", so one evening I proposed a radical action. People change. Pray for him. So we did. In my part of the country, a former Klansman has seen the error of his ways, become a preacher, and now speaks out fearlessly against racism, despite threats and harrassment. There are many other instances like this, some famous in history, others known only to their immediate families and to God. So why not pray for "the Grinch's heart to grow three sizes", like in the end of the story? Of course, this does not "under estimate the enemy" as we are often cautioned not to do. He'd called the DOL, had maintained a capture facility, and would probably continue to do so. But now he had an additional option, another way to be!

People can change. Anyone who reads this and believes in these things, please pray for the Buffalo Nations volunteers, for all the people who are helping the buffalo and support the buffalo -- and also for "the Grinch"! Since I left, I heard that "The Grinch" has done some very bad things. But I still pray for him. Sometimes these things take time.

Some laugh at prayer, think that people who pray just sit on their 'somethings' and don't do anything else. Many, proud of their own strength, resent the suggestion that prayer does any good at all. But what I've seen is this -- work alone maintains the status quo, while prayer alone makes people feel better. But together, work and prayer accomplish amazing things.

Have you ever had a day when everything went surprisingly well? Even coincidences seemed to 'like you' that day. That's where prayer comes in. So we must work as hard as we pray, for buffalo are in danger every day, and, with them, many brave young men and women who daily go out into the snow.

And when we pray, we must give thanks, and refrain from speaking ill of anyone, especially those for whom we've prayed, as the wise ones all teach us. Why bother pray for someone if you're going to turn around and talk trash about them? That only cancels out the prayer! The world is full of people all too willing to talk trash, and there will always be those willing to do this. But a person who is committed to prayer must refrain from speaking ill of anyone or anything, and must give thanks as if the prayer were already accomplished. Sure it's hard -- but I've often done it, and found that, if done right, it works!

Meantime, the buffaloes that make it out to their winter feeding grounds, are in danger of being shot. Where is the logic here? As a middleaged, city-bred Southerner, I saw how hard it is to move thru snow. Often I had to stay back on the ridge keeping watch, while patrolmates half my age could hike thru deep powder, up the mountain. If I were part of a buffalo herd, I knew I'd be left behind to die. Among the buffalo, those who make it out on their migration routes are the strongest and most intelligent, the most adept, of their kind. To kill them off is to weaken the species.

It was argued that the land within the park boundaries could support only several hundred buffalo, and those who leave the park are obviously beyond the number that the park could support. But those who say this don't take into account the migratory nature of the buffalo, a nature given them by the Creator long before there were humans, way long before the boundaries of the park were set. They don't take into account the "winter kill" due to natural causes, or the critical number needed to sustain a population. Above all, they don't realise what it means, that the buffalo were here first!

Several solutions are proposed, aside from killing the buffalo. Some suggest feeding the buffalo within the park, and closing off snowmobile routes that the buffalo move along to leave the park. Wildlife management experts argue against the longterm wisdom of these proposals. Others, such as the Inter Tribal Bison Cooperative, suggest moving the "surplus" buffalo to live on the Indian reservations, and, last I heard, this is a solution supported by the group Buffalo Nations.

When I heard of this relocation, I thought, it has a lot of merit, and is certainly better than killing them. I know of the interdependance of the Buffalo and Red nations, that when buffalo are strong, Native Americans are strong. I have visited the reses, and know of how Native Americans make respectful use of buffalo in subsistence economy and in their ceremonies. But still, relocation is relocation...

Herding, or hazing, buffalo back into the park is a stopgap solution. The buffalo leave the park to find food, so herding them back in leaves them in danger of starving. Also, there is always danger that the buffalo could turn on the humans, and trample or gore them. After all, humans have always hunted buffalo. How are the buffalo to know that we are now there to help them, especially when our acts amount to harrassment?

One thing that occurred to me is that, since animals are very sensitive to subtle influences, all volunteers refrain from all disturbing influences (loud or negative talk, "cuss words", certain kinds of music, etc.) while hazing is going on, thus sending peaceful and positive energy to the effort. Also that all refrain from eating red meat, so that they do not give off a scent to the buffalo, of someone going to hunt them. These suggestions may have some merit but it is not known if they work. At any rate, hazing is dangerous and wastes valuable energy. So Buffalo Nations rarely hazes buffalo except when buffalo lives are in immediate danger.

Another proposed interim solution, is to sprinkle the permimeters of where buffalo should not go, with wolf urine. Perhaps the urine of dogs or humans would also do. Especially, the urine of a person who has recently eaten a hamburger! Buffalo avoid wolf urine, but it is not known if they do this by instinct or learning. Neither is it known if dog or human urine would do. But all this is worth a try.

The most radical longterm solution, and the one I like best, is proposed by groups such as Bring Back the Bison, "free passage". That is, working on laws and community relations, so that the buffalo have safe places to graze outside the park, along their ancient migration route, and so that wildlife protection laws apply to the buffalo whether they are in the park or not. There are National Forest lands surrounding the park, but the problem is that there are cattle grazing permits on those lands. The cattle industry fear that buffalo and cattle grazing on the same land may transmit brucellosis. But the domestic cattle use those lands in the summer while the buffalo use them in the winter. Right now there are negotiations for a federal land swap and federal purchase of additional land just outside the park, for the buffalo. These recent developments are most likely due to the heavy outcry from the public, supporting the efforts of Buffalo Nations and other groups working to save the buffalo. So keep up the good work, folks!

But what do the locals think? Canvassing the neighborhoods around the park, talking with the locals, I'd estimate about 90% of the people there don't mind buffalo in their yards. Many local supporters have agreed to have brightly colored signs, provided by Buffalo Nations, posted on thier fences. These signs proclaim a "buffalo safe zone" and forbid the shooting or harrassment of buffalo "by order of the landowner". Such signs may have a peer support effect, so that people may be more apt to post such signs if they see their neighbors do it.

The buffalo are killed, it is said, because of fears of brucellosis. But it is well documented that this fear is unfounded. Brucellosis is difficult to transmit, spread only thru body fluids. It has not been a serious problem in many years, due to modern animal husbandry and food handling practices. The CDC no longer considers it a reportable disease. For more info on this, just fire up your web browser.

So most people around Yellowstone support life and freedom for the buffalo, and of the few who resist, many have misconceptions over brucellosis. Some think it is common in buffalo, but actually it has shown up in only a very small percentage of the buffalo tested. Some think it is airborne or spread thru excrement. But the fact is that brucellosis is usually spread by close contact with a freshly miscarried calf. Such contact is highly unlikely for many reasons -- timing of the calving and grazing seasons, predators, etc.

So there is need for public education. In India the people honor the cattle, domesticated relatives of the buffalo. Cattle have free passage there, traffic stops for them while all stop to count their blessings. It could happen here, with lots of work on the legal and community relations fronts, and equal amounts of prayer.

Perhaps a powerful media person may become a friend of the buffaloes. Or maybe a formal debate, carried out by a high school or college debating club and held as a public event, would help people to understand. It is true that the cattle industry is a very powerful thing, controlled by a lot of money. But money is controlled by human interest, and so human interest is even more powerful! There is talk of boycotting Montana beef or even all beef. There are all sorts of approaches that we can take here.

Some things just don't add up. If brucellosis were such a threat, why is the meat of slaughtered buffalo sold, and the heads and hides auctioned as trophies (often at obscenely low prices)? Why were the remains of over 1000 slaughtered buffalo left lying about for domestic cattle (or anything else) to put their noses into, as fourleggeds tend to do? If the buffalo are such disease hazards, why are they lured out of the park, by putting down fresh hay beside the capture facility? (see recent BN news releases) Why is there no fear over the elk, who also carry it? Brucellosis is associated with undulant fever in humans, an extremely rare disease now that it is common practice to pasteurize milk and cook meat. Kinda makes ya wonder ...

But then, if brucellosis is a red herring, why are they really killing the buffalo? There is much speculation, but, speaking only for myself, I think it is to try to prevent the return of Spirit.

Once while out on patrol, my partner picked up a bit of shed-off buffalo fluff and gave it to me as a trophy. I twisted it into a bit of cordage, and looped it around into the familiar shape of the ribbons people wear to show support for various causes. A brown ribbon shows you support life and freedom for the buffalo. What if lots of people were to wear brown ribbons? Then, everyone who believes in the buffalo would recognise one another, and all sorts of efforts to protect the buffalo would flourish. Public opinion would support legal reform, and sheer numbers of people would show that we welcome the buffalo when they return. Maybe the governor of Montana, who, last I heard, supports slaughtering the buffalo even despite the pleas of the Department of the Interior, would have to listen, if each brown ribbon represents a vote for his opponent in the next election! Humans are herd animals, too.

Beautiful country. The people grumble a bit about the cold, the isolation, and many are transplants here. So I ask why do they stay, and they say, it is so beautiful here. You can see the sky without having to look past a bunch of buildings and wires. You can see God everywhere, and everywhere used to be like this. And when you see the lodgepole pine forests you never look at a telephone pole again the same way. And the buffalo belong here. They were here first.

The movement to support the buffalo began around Yellowstone. Residents were outraged at the slaughter last year. I talked for a long time in a bar, with a middleaged lady named Donna who'd actually gotten the ball rolling when she saw buffalo shot just outside her yard several years ago. A red headed white lady, she'd been at a loss for words when trying to explain why the buffalo must live. But she is a very devout person, she says a "little voice" speaks to her when she prays. And her "little voice" told her that, if she wants to make people understand why buffalo are important, she ought to get Native Americans to tell them. So, she got a few Native American elders to address a community meeting, and by the time they got thru there was hardly a dry eye in the place. This led to the founding of Buffalo Nations and several other local buffalo support groups, such as Bison Belong and Bison Action Group. I hope and pray that these different groups can come to work together effectively, because there is much work to be done on many angles, to ensure life and freedom for the buffalo.

Another local resident wrote about how she'd gotten into action. She'd seen several buffalo bulls shot in a certain spot. It took a great many bullets to bring them down. The next day, she watched as nine female buffaloes, the oldest in the lead, walked in single file up to that spot where their men had fallen. They made a circle, and stood there for about 20 minutes, moaning and groaning. Then they all walked away, in single file.

"The buffalo are life," I'd told a freelance reporter who came to visit us one day. "They are a visible sign of God's care for us, of Mother Earth's care for us. For a long time the buffalo have kept the people alive. Now it is time for us to keep the buffalo alive -- turnabout's fair play. Some people say the buffalo are something - something," I said, for, under the pledges of my visions, I could not speak directly of disease or anything unpleasant, "But no, they are not; they bring strength and life. If people knew what the buffalo are about, they would not get upset about buffalo in their yards. They would realise that buffalo are a blessing."

Then the reporter turned to a Buffalo Nations member who sat beside me, a young Native American who has been sent by his elders, and vowed to remain with the group in order to represent Native American interests. The tribal member is an adopted relative of Joe Chasing Horse, the spiritual director of Buffalo Nations. The young man told of his tribal beliefs, told the White Buffalo story as he'd heard from his elders. I kept quiet, as is proper. Then, when he was done, I asked the tribal member's permission to show them both something, and he agreed. So I showed them the paintings I'd made and hung on the wall in a side room, above my sleeping bag. Pictures of White Buffalo Woman, as I'd seen in my dreams. In four and two legged form. Looking back on us. She's awesome.

That afternoon, a lady who lives near the park called us to haze buffalo from her yard. Buffalo Nations has posted fliers offering free hazing and offering to repair people's fences for free, so she called. Soon, two other volunteers and I were ready. Also with us was the reporter, who later got his story on us published in the Washington Post on Janurary 1, 1998. The lady had a doghouse made of hay bales, and a water trough for her dogs and horses. No wonder the buffalo had come! "They're ugly!" interjected her little daughter. I resembled that remark a bit, but said nothing while the woman went on. They'd challenged her dogs. She didn't want them in her yard, but didn't want them killed either. Up to now her only option would have been to call the DOL; she was glad we were here.

So, whooping and hollering and walking at a steady pace thru the knee-deep powder, we got the buffalo moving back toward the park. At one point, the buffalo curved their tails upward, turned around, and faced us. When this happens, as it does often, it is a tense moment; they could charge! I prayed hard, while we all kept very still and quiet. Soon the buffalo turned around, and we got them moving again, back into the park. All safe, for now.

On the way back, I laughed to myself, thinking, a hay-bale doghouse indeed! The buffalo are here first! Anyone who doesn't want buffalo in their yard shouldn't have moved next to Yellowstone Park! But at least she called us rather than the DOL. She understands a little. Maybe one day she'll understand more.

Because of my age and background, I was not able to do much hiking or skiing or other heavy outdoor things that others could do. Even so, I went on patrol nearly every day, and, when not on patrol, I worked around the house, refraining from rest until totally exhausted. I saw our work as very sacred, and that patrolling is only part of what we do. To remain strong for patrol, we need good food and a clean house. Also, we went out sometimes on community relations work, canvassing, posting signs, even shovelling snow! On the first morning I was there, I helped a neighbor unload hay bales from his truck; another time, I helped a neighbor fix his car! An action like this needs perhaps three support persons for every one on the front lines, and, as Mother Theresa said, there are many people who can do great things but not many who will do the small things. So I was happy to help with the cooking and cleaning around the house, and considered even the most menial and tedious tasks a great honor. Sometimes in close quarters we'd get on each other's nerves a bit, but when this happened we'd all remind each other, we are here for the buffalo, everything else is secondary.

Once while we were out on patrol, almost time to go in, when my partner thought he spotted a DOL truck. So we reported this on our CB's, and swung around back to Horse Butte, where we'd seen buffalo and where we figured the truck was headed. By the time we got there, a dozen or so other people from the house had gotten in gear and drove out there as well. We were ready. But to get out to the hill where the buffalo were was a good several mile hike from the road, and time was of the essence. Just then a caravan of snowmobiles came up! That's the kind of thing that happened all the time -- the 'luck plane' was tilted our way.

So we flagged them down and the guide said he'd heard of us, he'd just been telling his group about us! He'd give us a ride to where the buffalo were if we'd say a few words. "I'll talk with you all night if you give us a ride now," my partner countered. So he said a little something, then we all hopped on and set out for a wild ride to the hill where the buffalo were. Snowmobilers wear special gear, for the windchill factor can reach -100 F, and we were not dressed for that, mostly dressed for hiking -- but we just hung on! Snowmobiling, I'm told, is a bit like riding a spirited horse or an off-road motorbike. Pretty wild. And with the windchill, I've heard tell of dry ice (that is, frozen CO2) forming in a person's snowmoblie helmet, and we didn't even have helmets! But we'd deal with the frostbite later. For now, no effort was too great for the buffalo.

When we got there, we hopped right off and started hiking up the hill. There were two buffalo on the near side of the hill, and, we figured, a dozen or so on the other side. The stronger hikers made it first to the other side; I went at my own pace up the hill. When my strength flagged, I would look at the two buffalo before me, so strong and sacred, and sing. Then their strength would enter me, thru my eyes and thru the top of my head, and so I was able to keep going. They knew what time it is.

About three-quarters of the way up, I paused, on level with the buffalo. If the DOL showed up on this side, I'd be in a perfect spot to step out and protect the buffalo! I watched the pair, and a vision came, lots and lots and lots of buffalo. As many as the trees on the hills, even more. Coming back, up from the ground. I dropped a bit of tobacco and listened. In the cold, still air, I could hear my companions on the other side of the hill. There were no buffalo there, no DOL either. So they were headed back. My partner had to take a bit of good-natured ribbing for calling a "false alarm". No, I told them, there are no false alarms, only drills. Any time could be the real thing, so we had to be ready all the time. No buffalo must die this year.

Because of my visions, I was never to speak ill of anyone or anything, because we were with the buffaloes and so everything was sacred. A cross word, even a thought, could weaken us all; hadn't all patrols gone amazingly well so far? No arrests, no injuries except for a pulled muscle while skiing, no buffalo shot. Lots of help and good vibes from the neighbors. Even the weather had been cooperating; we'd had relatively little snow, and warmer temperatures than usual for that time of year. (Snow drives the buffalo into their migrations.) Who was to say that prayers had nothing to do with our good fortune? There are many things beyond our control, so we apply to a higher power. But the person who orders pizza doesn't take credit for making the pizza; that credit goes to unseen hands. Millions of people all over the world know that prayer works -- although no one can explain why, or why sometimes it seems not to. But at any rate, it never hurts! So I made a mind to remain in a sacred way all the time, singing and praying and keeping good cheer. While resting, I carefully picked a few strands of grass from around the house, and wove it into gifts for the visitors. We had some very important visitors, from the media and from Native tribes. A Japaneese reporter came with his wife and small daughter, so that soon the people in Japan will know of the buffaloes! He and his family came along, taking pictures, when the Forest Service asked us for help hazing a group of buffalo who'd come out of the park and grazed precariously close to the highway!

"Do you know the white bison?" the Japanese reporter asked me. So I told him, from my dreams. I had to. For the kind of dreams I have is the kind they say, you're supposed to make your visions for all to see. And I feel that soon, a white buffalo, a strong female who would change color for the four directions, may be born to the Yellowstone herd, wild and free -- and that soon White Buffalo Woman would come to us in the flesh, in human form! Perhaps knock on the door of the cabin, to help with whatever needed to be done! Wash dishes, clean the bathroom, go out on patrol, whatever. She'd be very beautiful, and have a nice strong magical vibe, like many of the women who work to help protect the buffalo and the earth. And so no one would know who she is at first, until she took out her Pipe ....

Soon, the buffalo could return from the hole in the mountain, just like they'd gone in; for they'd gone into the mountain in that same area of the country! Maybe one day when I was on morning patrol, I'd see this! Buffaloes and buffaloes and buffaloes, wild and free, the humans standing beside them, standing up for their right to live! The earth would be good again!

The buffalo know what is going on, is sacred. Once while we watched them graze on "the Grinch's" land, my partner remarked, "So oblivious!" But in my dream, they'd told me that they pray all the time. Their peacefulness was not that of oblivion, but like a monk, in deep prayer all the time.

"No," I said. "They're in a direct action, too. Think of the sit-ins, the lunch counters at Woolworth's!" My partners laughed. Much of what I've said here may sound very serious but they laugh a lot at Buffalo Nations; humor helps sustain them. And I did all I could to maintain this humor, even if, old and slow as I am, the jokes were often on me. But that was part of my vision, too....

So I worked hard as I could, long as I could, till one day I collapsed while on patrol. Then, I was told, to give up my dream; it was time for me to go.

"Thanks, guys; it's been real, but now it's time to go," I choked out. They had been very kind for having me there, for letting me work and give what I could. It had been such a sacred honor, that I was happy with whatever happened to me. My only regret is that I was not able to give more. Then I was gone.

The prophecy is that when the old buffalo loses his hair and falls from his last leg, the people of the four directions and the seven directions would come and give all they could, to renew the buffalo and renew the earth. And behind him, if all went well, there would be another one, young and strong. If the sacred ones so pleased, the young one would be female, for life comes from woman, and she'd be the color of snow, pure as new hope. In my dreams she is not an albino, for albinism is a weakness; the sacred white buffalo is the embodiment of "a life full of life". She would change colors, to honor the full circle of directions, the dark and the light, all the ways we can be. And so when she came on four legs, they called her Miracle, and I've seen her and she's real. I hear she's been seen on the roads, walking on two legs, appearing weak and in need of help, but this is only a test ... and wherever she goes, she leaves behind a small red Pipe ....

I've seen White Buffalo in my dreams, a beautiful young woman, powerful and sacred, who'd brought the Pipe and the knowledge of the right way to live. And in my dream, the Pipe she brought is not to be feared and kept wrapped up and put away. It is to pray for one another in love and truth, and to use in the ceremonies that would come to the people in vision. And in time to come, when the Pipe was worn out and the right ways forgotten and the ceremonies lost their meaning, she promised she'd be back, to give us a new Pipe and remind us again the right way to live, renew in us the power and wisdom, and new visions and ceremonies would come, to make the earth good again.

I'd seen her in my dreams, resting on the earth, big as a mountain, strong and beautiful and magic. I've seen her in the sun, holding back the arm of the avenging angel, promising to try once again to help us understand. I've seen her made of lightning, singing with the thunder, singing of how soon it's time to get started, time to go. I've even seen her walk backwards, looking on us over her left shoulder, wondering if we'd recognise her when she returns, if we'd welcome her, if we'd remember.

She's back.

So we all come from the four and the seven directions, to give what we can. Some of the people of Buffalo Nations are so strong, they can ski all day, and wade in waist-deep icy creeks. Many are young enough to be my sons and daughters, the second generation after the seventh, "tye-dye diaper babies" with mothers like me. The people of Buffalo Nations are our warriors, not like military servicemen, but nonviolent warriors putting their lives on the line for the Earth and all that live on her. They are on the front lines; other individuals and groups are also working in many areas -- front lines, legal, writing, fund raising, prayer, education, etc. The different groups with different approaches must not see themselves as in competition with each other; a wide variety of work is needed here. All those who are working to protect the buffalo are to be admired and supported in any way we can.

Since I've left, I've heard that things have gotten much harder. "The Grinch" used his car to run over a volunteer (fortunately, injuring only his foot); another volunteer had her car tampered with. The snow has gotten waist-deep. There have been several arrests, and, in a recent update, I've read that buffaloes have been lured to the capture facility and trucked away, most likely, for slaughter. In early February, six buffalo, three yearlings and three cows, were shot at Horse Butte, the same place where I had a vision. Thru all this, Buffalo Nations volunteers struggle to protect the buffalo, and no hardship is considered too great. So we should support this and all related efforts in any way we can, because the buffalo are coming back, and it is up to us to be worthy of them, to pay attention.

Thank you for reading this.

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.