Update from the Field - January 4, 2024

On behalf of Buffalo Field Campaign's Board of Directors, I would like to thank you for your steadfast support. We say it alot, and we mean it: BFC supporters are family, part of our wider Buffalo herd.

bfc photo justine sanchez wade in the water

Something Lee Juan Tyler (Shoshone Bannock) said at our recent Tribal Buffalo Summit got me thinking (and writing my blog, Inner View, a feature of our Buffalo Backbone Program) as we moved into 2024:

“We have a Sacred Treaty. That’s how it is in Indian Country; everybody has to respect each other. To be in someone else’s shoes, not judging them. You gotta go find out first hand what’s really happening. That’s how it used to be. Find out who’s in charge.”

To take a more complicated view is to think more critically, to put ego aside, and to listen…not judge.

It was easy for me to judge and find an enemy when the main killers, hazers and domesticators of wild bison were the Montana Department of Livestock (State government) and Yellowstone National Park (United States government). It got a bit more complicated when the Park began shipping captured Buffalo to slaughterhouses on tribal lands, who then shared the meat within their communities. Then the Park began shipping captured Buffalo to quarantine on tribal lands, at great expense to the tribes. Then tribes exerted their treaty rights to hunt wild Yellowstone bison, both to reconnect to historic lifeways lost and to strengthen their voice in their quest towards co-management of Buffalo. Then the State opened a public hunt where Montana residents took part.

It’s much harder for me to put myself into the shoes of each stakeholder; tribal people who lost so much yet are so resilient maneuvering within the colonial arena. The residents who chose to live within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to be in harmony with nature only to witness the brutality of Buffalo killed and trapped via this management plan. The advocacy groups who believe they have the right path forward, hearts trying to find center in a broken world and for the Buffalo.

And what about the Buffalo? Can I put myself in their shoes (or would it be hooves)? Would my version of what the Buffalo want be the same as the neighbors of Horse Butte? Or the residents of Beattie Gulch? Or the tribes that both hunt and don’t hunt? Or the activists and environmental groups who wish to see wild bison restored? And who’s “Buffalo perspective” is right? Who gets to speak for the Buffalo?

Who gets to speak for the Buffalo? The wolves and grizzlies certainly call to them. Would love to be able to add them to their diet and benefit from their hooves tilling the soils and their manure fertilizing the land. The birds raise their voices to the Buffalo. Warm wool for nests and perfect resting spots to find seeds to snack on. I pray to the Buffalo. Each morning when I rise to face the sun and the day, I call to them. I ask them for guidance. I ask them for forgiveness. I ask them for hope. I offer to them in return my heart, my hands, my work, my time, my best.

I hope it’s enough.

Onwards…for the Buffalo,
Justine Sanchez
President, BFC Board

Here's some feedback and wisdom in response to this Inner View from Buffalo Backbone Subscribers:

"You have come to wisdom and maturity. It takes just that to get stuff done. Lee Juan Tyler is right. It's taken me my 80 years and still learning. More gets done that way. One charges in and nothing gets done, but finding the right way to speak out gives people a chance to hear us. It's a tough lesson to be learned".

"Thank you so much for sharing this heart-felt and heart-wrenching exploration of all the different perspectives. I appreciate your insights and questions. I join your prayer to the Buffalo. May we be guided by their ancient wisdom and may they roam their traditional homelands in safety. Thank you for the work of the Buffalo Field Campaign. You have my full support as you move forward with and on behalf of the Buffalo."