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Snow Buffalo Notecard



Tatanka – Snow Buffalo

The American Buffalo, or Bison (Bison bison) formerly ranged across most of the U.S., northern Mexico and central Canada. Tatanka, the Lakota Sioux word for male buffalo, is considered sacred for the people of the Plains Nations. Tatanka once provided virtually everything needed to survive in their difficult environment. 

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 by the different Plains Nations.  As treaty after treaty was broken, and the white settlements grew, nations and great buffalo herds were forced into ever-shrinking spaces.  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 had been intentionally exterminated to make room for livestock and to destroy the people of the Plains Nations way of life.  Through starvation and constantly being attacked by the U.S. Army Cavalry, the Plains Nation peoples 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 people of the Plains Nations have resisted both annihilation and assimilation into the predominant white cultures around them.  Likewise, the buffalo are returning in ever-greater numbers.

The lives and fates of the buffalo and the Plains Nations 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 (c) 2003

text by Michael DeMunn (Dahad’nyah)