The Buffalo Bridge Project: January 10 – February 10, 2014
by Katie Russell, recipient of the first Primitive Found Grant.
Last year, I stumbled upon the Native Buffalo Hunt at the tail end of the season, in early March. Several Native American tribes still have treaty rights to hunt the herd. Just outside the National Park, the ground was littered with carcasses and rotting hides, and I realized the potential in the situation. When a hunter kills a buffalo, they are mainly concerned with the meat. While some do take the hides or skulls, many are left behind. In part, this is due to the lack of knowledge, as well as logistics. As a modern “primitive” with skills in this area, it gives me goose bumps to think of having the unique opportunity to offer, humbly and respectfully, my hard-won knowledge back to the people who ancestors have hunted the herd for generations. And I have no doubt those same hunters have skills and techniques that we can learn from as well.
The wild bison herd in Yellowstone National Park has been the focus of intense debate and political unrest. The complex issues swirling like windswept snow around the majestic creatures are difficult to unravel. There are the ranchers who fear the spread of abortion-inducing brucellosis if the herds are allowed to roam free, and have prompted abuses against the herd. The Buffalo Field Campaign has been working to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone’s free roaming buffalo by Montana’s Department of Livestock since 1996 (www.buffalofieldcampaign.org.) They have done amazing work to promote the free-roaming herd.
Passions run high, but I believe the time has come to shift the focus to the animals themselves, and the amazing gifts their bodies offer, if only we have the skills and energy to make use of them. It is my goal to build a bridge between cultures, factions, and political lines, in the common recognition of the innate worth of the buffalo, and our own shared humanity.
We will build the Buffalo Bridge by being available to process the byproducts of the hunt – hides, organs, bones, scrap meat, skulls, fat, fur and untold other treasures. My hope is the native hunters will accept and welcome our presence, and share food, laughs, and the riches of the hunt with us. I hope to also interact with Buffalo Field Campaign staff, and open some vegetarian eyes to the bounty of the hunt. I have contacts in both the Nez Perce tribe and the BFC, and hope to forge new relationships with locals and Park officials.
I have partnered with Primitive Found, a non-profit organization with the mission to grant funds for projects to individuals who practice, preserve, promote, and teach primitive and ancestral skills and technology. I am very grateful to the Foundation for their involvement, and am so excited for this project to take flight!