A Day With the Buffalo and the Elders


On November 29, 2006, eight little buffalo calves forced their way out of a government enclosure where they, and many other wild buffalo, were being detained in holding pens and experimented on by scientists attempting to produce a "brucellosis-free buffalo herd" in the Yellowstone area.

Only a couple weeks after the escape of these determined young buffalo, the winter hunting season began and the buffalo of Yellowstone were beset with hunters chasing them from place to place trying to fill the state issued hunting tags.

During a very stressful time for the buffalo herd in the harsh winter and deep snows where forage is hard to come by, the buffalo run to escape the hunters and the wildlife “management” officials who haze them with helicopters and snowmobiles. The buffalo would not have chosen an insane place to dwell during the long winter season like the heart of Yellowstone Park. They would have followed their instincts and gone to lower prairie grounds where the food supplies were plentiful. Yet, to this very day, they are forced to abide within imaginary fences and made to comply with an illogical and man made system that each year leads many buffalo to their deaths.

This is the way of life for our sacred buffalo. In beginning this story though, let us all back up and take time to learn about them and why they are sacred to the Native people. As is our tradition, listening to the oral history from a trusted Elder is how we learn our history and deepen our respect for our culture and the legacy of those who have come before. I am honored to share this story as told by Scott Frazier, Santee/Crow, as told to him by his Grandfather.

yellowstone buffalo herd “This is a segment of a large story that happens just after the flood dried up and is probably as old as the new testament of the Christian Bible. My Santee Grandfather told me the story but it is only a part of a much bigger piece that takes many years to tell.

The idea of the buffalo is older than all present day religions. Through out the world many people adhere to a religion of man to man. This is a religion of buffalo to man to buffalo. It is a religion of giving ones self for the betterment of the people who take care of the buffalo.

In the beginning of our relationship to the sacred life of the buffalo, the people lived inside the earth. It was a time when all things holy were on a sacred path and man was not the leader of the journey; the Creator and First Maker were in charge. In this time as told to me by elders long ago, man was a servant to the sacred and we lived inside the earth because the surface was flooded. Man fed the holy buffalo a food that only man could gather with his hands and it was like clouds.

The first one to come out of the earth and journey to the surface is called First One because he wanted to be more than a servant; he wanted to be holy. Today many related to First One still wish to be holy and struggle with sacred challenges of the ego, control, and power which were set from this time.

First One went to the surface and saw the beauty that was staged there for him to see. There were those living on the surface that would test the holy ones journey to become sacred. The ones that were on the surface would have fun and games with the human because they enjoyed watching things fail and struggle. When First One went to the surface they knew he was coming and put the best things for him to view. He saw no hardships or struggles. They made sure a trap for others would work. The stage was set.

Once First One saw the surface he knew automatically that he would get others to exodus to the surface for a better life where they would be in control. He believed he was seeing paradise and did not know his destiny would unfold into our today. Once that First One and others went to the surface the trap was sprung.

At this time we part from the First One’s story and go to the buffalo. When the buffalo missed their first meal because no one brought them their food, they began to ask where First One and the others were. When they found out the First One and others went to the surface they went to look out to see how they people were doing and saw the people suffering without food and shelter.

The buffalo felt sad for the poor human beings and they returned to council the other buffalos about what they should do. They had hard choices to discuss. One choice was to stay in the earth and starve because they needed the human to feed them or secondly, they could go out of the earth with no way to return to their old life.

They decided that they would go outside to the surface of earth because the people would always remember the buffalo as holy. They would feed the people themselves. There would be no starvation. They would provide all that the humans needed because the human would remember the buffalo as holy. So they came out of the earth for the people. Many people ask me, “So why do we pray for the buffalo?” The story talks about changing ones’ life for others, knowing what is a holy challenge, and finding truth in your purpose.

We pray for the buffalo because they are holy. They hold the universe together.”

~Scott Frazier, Ehnamani, Santee/Crow~

1. A Day With the Buffalo and the Elders 2. Pray for the Buffalo 3. What the Buffalo Mean to Our People 4. We Are All One Family 5. We Must Honor the Buffalo. We Are the Buffalo People

AUTHOR and PHOTOGRAPHER: Shelley Bluejay Pierce