Mignon Geli (left), along with one of Rosalie’s sisters, Donna Cardoza-Quinones (middle), and Rosalie’s first cousin Phil Little Thunder (right), walk towards Yellowstone’s Roosevelt Arch, leading the herd. BFC photo by Stephany.
The First Annual Rosalie Little Thunder Memorial Walk kicked off BFC’s Week of Action on Tuesday. It was a beautiful, heartfelt, and empowering journey! Our buffalo family, including close friends and relatives of Rosalie Little Thunder, gathered in Gardiner, Montana to make an eight-mile trek through the town of Gardiner and portions of Old Yellowstone Trail, through Yellowstone National Park, past Yellowstone’s trap, ending at Beattie Gulch. BFC photo by Stephany Seay.
Two of Rosalie’s sisters, Donna and Tara Hatzenbuhler, lead the walk away from the buildings and the asphalt. This was the first time in ten years that Donna had been back to be with BFC, and for Tara, it was the first time. BFC photo by Stephany Seay.
The Rosalie Little Thunder Walk is in honor Lakota elder and Buffalo Field Campaign co-founder, the late Rosalie Little Thunder (article). Rosalie was a member of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate; Burnt Thigh Band, of the Little Thunder Tiospaye and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. She lived in the Black Hills Treaty Territory in Rapid City, South Dakota. Rosalie was a tireless and wisdom-filled advocate for her relatives, the buffalo, until her dying day. Three months before she passed away, she co-wrote a powerful Open Letter to Tribal Leaders and the American People (letter), with BFC's Darrell Geist.
At the top of a hill overlooking Yellowstone’s buffalo trap, we take a break to hold a ceremony and hear about Rosalie and what this walk means to her sisters, cousin, and close friend. From left to right, Rosalie’s sisters, Donna, Tara, and Karen Little Thunder, Phil Little Thunder, and Cheryl Angel.
Rosalie inspired this Walk in many ways. In 1999, Rosalie lead a group of people on a 500-mile walk from Rapid City, South Dakota to Yellowstone’s north entrance in Gardiner, Montana. Tatanka Oyate Mani (They Walk for the Buffalo Nation), was a spiritual response to and call to action against the killing of the last wild buffalo, the Yellowstone herds. Our Walk in honor of Rosalie was approximately eight miles, a small fraction compared to the lengthy commitment, riddled with hardships and struggles, that Rosalie made with her 1999 walk. Yet this walk, too, is a spiritual response to the senseless killing of our sacred relative, the buffalo, and also a political statement of protest against Yellowstone’s trap and the firing-line hunting that has taken so many buffalo lives. But, also, this Walk is a reconnection of family and building of solidarity, in remembrance of Rosalie who continues to inspire and guide us to continue this difficult but important work so that buffalo one day roam free again. BFC’s Mike Mease will be putting together a video of highlights from the Walk, which will offer more than text here possibly could. For now, please enjoy these photos from the Walk, and a few from our successful rally in Bozeman the following day.
As we walk down towards the flats of Stephens Creek, close to the trap, Rosalie’s family leading the way, we encounter a large group of buffalo. The buffalo seemed to know why we were there, but, maybe not necessarily what we were doing. Their reaction to our approach was mainly one of curiosity and excitement. With buffalo on either side of us, the walkers moved gently through the herd. BFC photo by Stephany Seay.
After passing by the buffalo, Phil Little Thunder takes some time to stop and sing songs to his relatives. He sang a song of moving south, away from the dangers of the trap. The buffalo heard his song, and slowly moved accordingly. BFC photo by Stephany Seay.
After we encountered the buffalo, we still had about two more miles to go before getting to Beattie Gulch. As the sun dipped down behind Electric Peak, the temperature quickly dropped. The walkers quickly started donning layers again, then the winds came up, coming from the south, pushing on our backs, as if to lend us support for the last part of this journey. Rosalie’s sister, Tara, picked up her pace and ran for the last portion of the walk, which was no small effort. Once we all gathered at Beattie Gulch, we were met by some Yakama people who we had wonderful conversation with about the buffalo, and what we were doing there today. Soon after, as we huddled against the freezing winds, our tireless warrior, Grumble, arrived with a hot meal for all to share. Then, we headed to Bozeman for the night, where the following day, we would rally once again.
We set up an information table at the Bozeman Public Library, broke out our signs and banners, and facing yet another frigid, blustery day, headed out to the streets of Bozeman. This year, instead of walking up and down Main Street, we chose a corner and rallied there. Never in our lives have we received such volumes of positive feedback. So often in the past, we would hear people yell, “get a job hippie!” With our response always being, we do have a job, we are here to defend the last wild buffalo. But, on this day, the positive feedback was enormous. There were so many cars honking their horns in solidarity, giving us the thumbs up, and waving. It lifted our hearts immensely. BFC/DGR photo by Max Wilbert.
As it was Valentine’s Day, we took the opportunity to shout out some buffalove, sending a positive message of ‘Love the Buffalo! Let them Roam!’ It was clear by the response of most passers-by that solidarity for the buffalo is certainly growing. More and more people are expressing their discontent, if not outright disgust, with the way the current management scheme is harming our sacred buffalo. BFC/DGR photo by Max Wilbert.
“Hey Ya! Hey Yo! Let the Buffalo Roam! Hey Ya! Hey Yo! Let the Buffalo Roam! Let ‘em roam (let ‘em roam)!” Of course, you can’t have a well done rally without good drumming and dancing! Nor without a beautiful howling dog who chimes in on the chants! Too windy for much flute playing this day, Mignon picked up her drum, and along with Cody Little Bear and Jaedin Medicine Elk, lead the beautiful chants that kept us all dancing, and gaining us necessary attention from the folks moving through the city. Phil Little Thunder, of course, in his stunning regalia, always an honor to behold, commanding attention and respect. It was a great team effort that day, and though exhausted by the end of it, we all drove back to camp happy and inspired. BFC/DGR photo by Max Wilbert.