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Snow Buffalo Journal


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Tatanka – Snow Buffalo

The American Buffalo, or Bison (Bison bison) is called "Tatanka" by the Lakota (Sioux) American Indian people. It formerly ranged across most of the U.S., northern Mexico and central Canada.

The buffalo is one of the most important animal symbols in American history and in many Indian cultures. For the Plains Indians, the buffalo was considered sacred, because their way of life, religion and culture depended on, or revolved around the great herds. Virtually everything the Plains Indians needed to survive in their difficult environment, the buffalo gave them; including food, clothing, bone tools and hides to cover their teepees.

Before the Civil War, there may have been over 40 million buffalo in the West alone. After the war, huge numbers of settlers pushed westward on to lands long occupied and now owned through treaties by the different Plains Indian tribes. As treaty after treaty was broken, and the white settlements grew, the Indians and great buffalo herds were forced into ever-shrinking wild country. At this time, hundreds of buffalo hunters also swarmed the Plains, resulting in the greatest slaughter of wildlife the world has ever known.

By 1885, the buffalo were, incredibly, now rare and the Plains Indians’ primary food source was gone. The buffalo had been intentionally exterminated to make room for livestock and to destroy the Indians’ way of life. Through starvation and constantly being hunted down by the U.S. Army Cavalry, the Plains Indians were forced to live on the small reservations, most of which were waterless, harsh lands unwanted by the settlers.

Since then, the resilience and strength of the Indian cultures have resisted both annihilation and assimilation into the predominant white cultures around them. Likewise, the buffalo are returning in ever-greater numbers on preserves and ranches throughout America.

The lives and fates of the buffalo and the Plains Indian cultures have always been connected and woven together. The buffalo is the physical embodiment and animal symbol of the abundance, generosity and power of the Universe from the Creator. The buffalo is our relation, and it is Sacred.

artwork by Andy Wenner © 2003 

text by Michael DeMunn (Dahad’nyah)

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Weight 0.82 lbs
Dimensions 8.5 × 7.25 × 0.5 in
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