“This just in…” to quote a newsman: the courts, via Judge Molloy in Missoula, issued a ruling late this afternoon that wolves must be PUT BACK ON THE ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST. This due to superb legal work of EarthJustice and attorney Doug Honnold.

Do a search on Google to find more… but for now, they are safe again.  A GREAT DAY for wolves and for EarthJustice. 

Howl on!!!!!!!!!!!

… and what a season it is!

I just came back from two days in the park; not only are there tons of babies, the griz are out of their dens and starting mating season. It was a wildlife watcher’s paradise. The bison were thin; signs of a hard winter.

 It was hard to see their ribs showing, but the grass is plentiful, there’s still a lot of snow on the surrounding mountains which will melt and make the grass even better, and there were babies.  

The plight of the bison remains so painful; officials were planning on “hazing” (LOVE that word — not) them out of the west side of the Park (justoutside the twon of WEst Yellowstone) back in last week. Don’t know whether that’s been stopped yet, but I know a bunch of groups wrote Montana’s Gov. and said, please, stop this.  

 

I got to see the my first “bear in the wild” and actually saw SEVERAL bears; here’s one with her two “cubs of the year” who were frolicking and playing in a large field, just like you see on TV shows. What a profound blessing to witness this.  (I grew up in New York City where the wildest animal I ever saw was a pigeon…).  

 

Then I got to see my first “grizzly in the wild” and it was intense. There is something about them that defies common language; perhaps because their are the top of the food chain, perhaps because they are a true predator, perhaps because they are so beautiful, perhaps because they are threatened. But this was magnificent. The bear was below a bridge, eating the remains of a bison carcass. Because we were safe above the river, it was easy to sit there for an hour and watch.
Griz on bison Amazing.
I met an author and Jungian therapist named Ellen Macfarland who’s written a soon to be published book about recovery from trauma and the role animals can play in that recovery. She talks about wolves and bears.
I heard too this weekend the wonderful Jim Halfpenny who lives just outside Yellowstone who told a tale called “The Woman Who Married a Bear” and it was so moving. Google it and you’ll see variations of it come up in several indigenous cultures’ stories and so-called fairy tales. 
Seeing bears– well, really, any uncommon animal in the wild is a privilege these days, and certainly so in America, where we have, truly, “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Yellowstone National Park is quickly becoming the last place in America where all our native species that were here before we moved in and built houses and railroads and gravel pits and highways and skyscrapers and so on and so on .. still live, as undisturbed as is possible in a place that receives about 3 million visitors a year, all leaping out of their cars to take pictures like the ones above. Capturing the image… capturing the wild… capturing the last gasp of wildness in this country where so little wild remains. There is a simultaneous joy and deep sadness while watching this bear in the spring sunlight, eating in relaxation, safe in Yellowstone.
God help this bear if he leaves Yellowstone, though.
The Feds are wanting to take america’s grizzly off the Endangered Species List, as they have “recovered” but there’s not a scientist who thinks that’s true. Worse, global warming will affect their habitat AND there food sources, and they will instintively want to head north. Problem is that they wll have to cross a few highways to get to Canada where they might (might — check out Canada’s lame attitude towards bears, makes America look like one big conservation org…) be able to survive.
Someone wrote that we are the only species in the natural world who “soils their nest” and that we are commiting slow ecocide — of the species called humans. When you think about it, it’s true.
Why?
Save the griz. Do what you can to help them live.

 

Came across a fascinating article in High Country News (www.hcn.org, a publication I highly recommend) which posits that regarding global warming, the government actually has a responsibility to stop it due to a law passed in the 1800s considering our land, waters and wildlife as a “trust asset” which the government is obliged to protect.  They are the “trustees” of the natural resources that “we the people” need and use and share. 

The idea’s been brought forth by a professor/attorney at the University of Oregon, Mary C. Wood. If you google her, you’ll find info about her as well as speeches on this topic on the U of O webpage about her.

I was fascinated and read all about it last night, including a great speech she recently gave at the 2008 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.

Check it out; it gave me hope.  www.law.uoregon.edu/faculty/mwood/

 

 Here she is, having just won her owners a whopping $400,000. About 3 seconds after this photo was taken, both her front ankles snapped, crumbled like leaves in October, and down she went onto the hallowed ground of America’s most time-honored and accepted form of animal abuse…. horse racing and The Kentucky Derby.  

One day go visit a Thoroughbred Rescue Farm where hundreds of former race horses go (if they are LUCKY!!) when their owners, bored and mad that their “investment” isn’t paying off, dump them.  You will never meet a more nutso horse than one who’s come off the track. It takes YEARS to rehabilitate their minds, and rarely ever can you truly rehabilitate their bodies. These babes are raced at such tender young ages (go hang out with a pen filled with two or three year olds…. they are still growing, they frolick, they play…. except for those who are bred to run run run run run.   And get beaten by their jockey with a whip while they’re doing it.) they are running on bones that are not strong, full-grown and healthy. It’s a miracle there aren’t more breakdowns like Ruffian, Barbaro and now, Eight Belles.

It’s stories like these that make me sick to my stomach. Horse racing is just plain animal cruelty for enrichment of owners’ bank accounts and to feed the addiction of gamblers.  

Boycott horseracing.

It’s so cool living in the West. A dream come true,really. 

In the last 7 days, I got to experience my first ever live horse auction, AND my first authentic Pow Wow.

The horse auction came complete with an auctioneer who called the horses out to the stadium one by one, by a number they had painted on their rear end. They’d been colts in training for the past several years with MSU Equine Program students, and it showed. amazingly calm, sane, well trained 3 year olds.

The students rode demos first, then the auction began.

Men with their families, whispering and jotting donw notes on which horse they liked; the auctioneer telling the audience that they were getting away with murder because the bids were so low… the small of horses, hay, the young students sad at having to give up the horse they’d put so many hours on.. the young, horse crazy girls, “Oh Dadd, PLEASE? I LOVE him! That one RIGHT THERE! Please can’t I have THAT ONE??”

The bidding began. Men in cowboy hats raising their numbers.

The bidding went high for some, flat for others.

I know now where I will get my horse next year.  There were some truly amazing horses at this sale. 

Then there was the Pow Wow.

Montana Pow Wow Girls, 2008S

Boys, girls, men, little ones, boys…. dressed to the nines, swirling, stomping dancing. Drummers drumming. Bells on their feet and on their costumes.  The colors, amazing.



Turns out that all the meat from this Winter’s thousands of slaughtered Yellowstone bison (upwards of 1/3 of the entire herd) will be sold to food banks across Montana.  15,000 pounds of meat were sold.

The spokesperson for the deal said it was coming at an opportune time, since the recall of the 143 million pounds of beef were recalled after Humane society footage caught the business trying to raise “downed” cows (those to sick to stand) to get them to walk to their deaths in the slaughter house and that had diminished the amount of meat the food banks were able to offer to their clientele

(Nothing made me more sick than watching those videos of the poor, sick and dying cows, being hosed with water with fire fighting-strength water pressure to get them to stand.  It is an image that will forever linger in my mind.  Hosed. Sickening. Go support the Humane Society for their work in discovering this….)

But I digress. 

These bison that have been butchered (literally, now, it seems) for DARING to leave Yellowstone in search of winter forage (snow too high in the park, hard to get to the scant forage below) migrate down and out to lower elevations.  Seems natural, right? Elk do it; deer do it. Pronghorn do it. None of them get shot for trying to eat.

Problem here is that bison can carry a disease (brucellosis) that can cause cows to abort their fetuses. And if any cows in Montana get diagnosed with this disease, the whole state loses it’s “brucellosis free status” which is an economic disaster for people who raise cows to be killed in slaughterhouses described above so that fast food restaurants, school cafeterias etc. can have an abundant supply of beef.

So the bison — Yellowstone’s iconic animal, the symbol of the west — take the hit.

That’s the “buffalo problem” in a nutshell. Because Montana is a big “producer” of beef, the state and the Feds need to “protect” those “producers” from losing their ability to “produce.”

And the bison suffer for it.

I was heartened in a somewhat pathetic  way to see that the bison slaughter had some meaning; I have long been completely unable to understand how anyone in America could be hungry with all our wealth, sophisticated philanthropy, and abundance of “producers” of beef, chicken, etc. I support Food Banks because I think that being able to feed yourself and your children is a basic right.

The announcement that the Yellowstone bison’s death will help those who cannot afford to purchase beef is somewhat ironic, no?  But I am glad for it nonetheless. If they had to die, best they and their spirits should live on in service to those who are in need.

But it’s ironic all the same.

I met this goat a few years ago; she’d just given birth to the most precious little babies; we volunteered to bottle feed them for a few days. She had a LOT to say; here we are saying goodbye.  

 

I think goats are horribly underrated as companions. When I worked at a famous author’s barn I visited the horses he boarded after work each night; one was so terribly afraid of being alone he would rear up in his paddock, pace back and forth and wsa generally miserable… until they added a goat into his paddock who was named… Billy.

This goat and this horse bonded so intensely and within a day, the horse was completely chilled out. However, every show the horse went to, along went Billy, too. Seemed that the horse performed better when Billy was along for the ride.

Inter-species bonding… always fascinating. I loved those two together.

Back in the late 1880s, there was massive slaughtering of bison. (This is from the National Park Service’s archive.) Can you imagine if these were golden retriever, horse or cat skulls? You can only imagine the outcry. Yet here’s this guy, proudly posing by them.

Then there’s this one:

 

So much hatred for wildlife. So much hatred of the Buffalo!

I looked at these and remembered similar photos from Germany and Poland — only then it was people.

What is wrong with everyone? 

Two Huge Events for Bison this Week

Chief Arvol was incredible. Full headdress. Brought a buffalo skull from a buffalo that had died in slaughter. Here’s the AP photo:

There were about 100 of us, in a circle within sight of the capture facility. Warm, then as the ceremony started, whipping wind, snow. wind so loud and hard those of us downwind could not hear a thing. Drumming, prayer in Lakota, Translations from Rosalie Little Thunder.  The spirit of the bison flying, swirling, circling overhead and back again. Cold.  Real. Righteous.

Then, quiet. Calm. Weak sunshine. The Chief offered the pipe. He came and thanked/blessed everyone in the circle. When he got to me, I looked into his eyes, his face, the deep lines. I thought of how we Americans in our quest o conquer land and get a piece of it for ourselves drove these folks off what they thought and believed was THEIR land (whose land is it, REALLY???) and now they live on “reservations” and have disease (alcoholism, diabetes).  What “we” did to these people is incredible. What we did to African Americans is incredible. What Germans did to Jews and others in incredible. We are such hateful people on one hand, no? So much driving for control, for “our piece of the pie” to dominate, to “have it our way.”

Yet, here was Chief Arvol, traveling from the Dakotas to perform a brief ceremony for the spirit of the bison. 

I noted how there was another “Chief” who traveled this week to come perform ceremony — the Pope. There he was in his multi billion dollar plane, security force, etc. etc. etc., meeting with the President who called him “the Holy Father”.  

But there was another Holy Father who also traveled to bless his people, to speak of change, to speak of injustice, to try and right a wrong…. Chief Arvol.

The great news is that the very next day, (as my friend Kerri says, “Is it odd or is it God??” ) the word came down that an historic agreement had been reached that will allow bison — for the first time in 100 years — the opportunity to leave the Park LEGALLY (yeah, I know, it’s beyond believe that wildlife is managed like errant puppy dogs, but that’s ANOTHER post…). Press conference yesterday, forest service, Park service, the Governor of Montana, enviro groups that had been integral to making the deal happen, reporters… crammed in a room.. the Governor announcing the news.) Of course, there are caveats, caveats that are on the one hand sickening (there will only be 25 allowed, they have to test sero-negative for Brucellosis, they may have to have vaginal implants, etc, etc.) BUT in this modern world with its laws, competing interests, and fear, the animals ALWAYS COME LAST and so again, will the bison.  BUT… and this is an important BUT … there is a break in the 100-year old log-jam of rules and bureaucracy and some … SOME!!!! .. can be free to roam.  

Symbolically this is huge.  Did Chief Arvol and the prayers of those of us who gathered on the windy, dusty land just north of the Roosevelt arch help? Only the wind knows….

Here it is:

Mi-ta-ku-ye (my relatives),  

I have been called upon to perform the Spirit Releasing ceremony for 

the thousands of buffalo that have lost their lives in the last decade, in 

the mountains of the Yellowstone River country. 

 

Many, many generations ago, our relatives, the Pte O-ya-te (Buffalo 

People) came up from Wind Cave in the Black Hills; the heart of Un-ci 

Ma-ka (Grandmother Earth) and prepared the way for our existence.  

From that time forward, they gave of themselves for our survival, as 

long as we respected their gift. They taught us how to live in an 

honorable and respectful way by example and through the teachings 

of the White Buffalo Calf Woman.  She brought the Sacred Canupa 

(Pipe) to remind us of our responsibilities and also provided us with 

the knowledge of the sacred rites that are necessary to discipline 

ourselves.  

 

From the Buffalo Nation, our ancestors learned to have an honorable 

relationship of being connected with Un-ci Ma-ka; this “way of life” 

that identifies us of who we are as an O-ya-te (a People), with all it’s 

sacred teachings.  They understood the gifts from Un-ci and carefully 

lived in harmony with her wellbeing.  For that reason, we hold them to 

be sacred.  We co-existed in a good way until we were nearly 

destroyed. Ob un-ka-so-ta-pi tka.  The sacred Buffalo Nation in these 

mountains are the survivors of that natural way of life.  We are 

culturally and spiritually indebted to them and we still need their 

guidance, to remind us how to be at peace and harmony with Un-ci 

Ma-ka.  

 

Let it be known that Yellowstone territory; the habitat of the last wild 

Buffalo Nation – is sacred ground, it has been a SACRED SITE for 

the First Nation’s people, and for all humanity who hold deep respect 

for all Creation. The Buffalo Nation has confirmed this fact; by where 

they have ended up, continuing to survive in their natural migration, 

struggling to live in a peaceful manner.  Our ancestors also gave us 

this message by fasting in this area long ago, as they recognized this 

place of sacredness. This understanding is how we maintain the 

balance upon Un-ci Ma-ka, to protect these places, especially for the 

survival of our future generations to come. 

 These Buffalo that lost their lives in Yellowstone did not die by 

Natural Law, nor were their spirits honored with ceremony.  This is 

why we must go there to perform a ceremony of honor for those that 

lost their lives by the misunderstanding of human-kind and pray to 

Wakan Tankan (Great Spirit) for pity of how gifts were unappreciated. 

We must pray with all those who grieve and be grateful for them. 

 

Many of the people who are deeply concerned of what has happened 

in the manner of which their lives were taken; we see this as an un- 

necessary massacre.  We have known that this particular herd is the 

last original Buffalo Nation that still follows their migration pattern, the 

little that is left in tact; they are the sign of our connection to our 

wellbeing of living in harmony.  I humbly ask for all People to make 

prayers on April 15th, at high noon; for a healing of humanity – for the 

decisions that are being made with no regard for the sacredness of 

life, for the massacred Buffalo’s spiritual journey and to protect what 

is left – in understanding of what our journey in this life represents in 

being responsible!  We must pray for the healing of the human Spirit, 

to understand the connection to all living beings on Un-ci Ma-ka.  

 

In a Sacred Hoop of Life, where there is no ending and no beginning! 

 

Can-te Mi-ta-wa I-ta-han (from my heart) 

Chief Arvol Looking Horse 

19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe 

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