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Tatanka

January 3, 2006

American bisonFew people realize that the great race to exterminate the buffalo (or bison), once the lifeblood of American Indians, continues even today. Hunters in Montana are still killing the last remaining bison.

In the words of John Fire Lame Deer:

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).

The bison’s struggle for its own right to exist continues:

In the past ten years Montana and the federal government have killed 2,477 wild Yellowstone bison, more than half of the existing herd. Twenty wild bull bison have been killed in Montana since September; seventeen have been shot by Montana hunters, two by Montana’s Department of Livestock (DOL), and another was shot by a Yellowstone National Park ranger inside the Park. (indymedia.us).

At one time, prior to the coming of the white man, as many as 60 million bison roamed the plains of North America.

“We did not ask you white men to come here. The Great Spirit gave us this country as a home. You had yours. We did not interfere with you. The Great Spirit gave us plenty of land to live on, and buffalo, deer, antelope and other game. But you have come here; you are taking my land from me; you are killing off our game, so it is hard for us to live. Now, you tell us to work for a living, but the Great Spirit did not make us to work, but to live by hunting. You white men can work if you want to. We do not interfere with you, and again you say, why do you not become civilised? We do not want your civilisation! We would live as our fathers did, and their fathers before them.” (Crazy Horse, d. 1877)

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