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Sent: Monday, December 13, 1999 1:01 PM
Subject: Yellowstone Bison Slaughter


 > Winter comes to Yellowstone
 >
 > Ushering in another bison kill
 >
 > By Wynona LaDuke - Special to Indian Country Today
 >
 > Wii-zoogipod. It is likely to snow. As the snow starts to fall in
Yellowstone
 > National Park, there are some absolute certainties. There is a certainty
that
 > the National Park Service will grind away at a process to determine the
fate
 > of the survivors of the Great Buffalo Nation. There is a virtual certainty
 > that buffalo will die, perhaps a few, perhaps a hundred, perhaps mostly
 > mothers, like last winter, who left orphaned calves, dying later. And,
there
 > is a certainty that people will oppose that slaughter.
 >
 > Three meetings, called "tribal consultations" by the National Park
Service,
 > were called this past year to seek input from Native Nations on the
 > Environmental Impact Statement for the future management of Yellowstone
 > buffalo. At the least, tribal representatives are frustrated with the
process.
 > James Garrett from Cheyenne River Lakota Nation commented that the Park
 > Service seems to be, "mixing consultation with insultation . being
consulted
 > at the eleventh hour is tantamount to insult."
 >
 > The Native community is insulted and angry with a process that has
 > marginalized perhaps the only people who know anything about buffalo. The
 > wider community, evidenced by more than 60,000 letters and calls, was also
 > pretty disgusted with every single proposal the Park Service has come up
with
 > to manage the Yellowstone herd. And, the Park Service, weighed under the
 > politics of cattlemen, the quandary of federal process and an impending
2000
 > election, scrambles feebly and weakly to do something right.
 >
 > It is the cusp of the millennium and America remains in a strange dance
with
 > death. It is a dance between mythology and reality, cowboys and Indians,
 > cattle and buffalo, expressing a deep-set fear that somehow if those
buffalo
 > live, what is America will not. Through this dance, American policy makers
 > struggle to determine the future of a buffalo herd and an entire
bioregion.
 >
 > Look at it this way : 45 million cattle have replaced 60 million buffalo
in
 > the Northern Plains region. Many of these cattle have moved into
government
 > held lands in the region and are scarfing up grazing rights to most of the
 > region. That is about 250 million acres of the American West. The politics
and
 > economics of this situation, resulting from faulty land use and
agricultural
 > policy, has led to the decimation of one third of the Yellowstone buffalo
herd
 > over the past four years. The Yellowstone herd are descendants of the 23
last
 > wild buffalo who lived through the great massacre of the past century. The
 > herd asks for enough food to survive and to live in some dignity.
 >
 > It is a simple request but the tribes have learned all too well that there
is
 > no such thing. "They're going to slap us down . they're going to slap
those
 > buffalo down," says Louis LaRose from the Winnebago of Nebraska. As Native
 > peoples, it is that quandary we all live in, how to not get slapped down,
and
 > how to live in dignity.
 >
 > The bullet fence and the myth of wild
 >
 > "The buffalo is central to our existence," explains Milo Yellow Hair of
the
 > Oglala Lakota Nation. "Our ceremonies will have no meaning if there is no
 > buffalo. Our language will have no meaning if there is no buffalo." It is
that
 > basic.
 >
 > Yet an impossible dilemma is again leading the buffalo to the edge of
genetic
 > oblivion. Buffalo suffer from genetic bottleneck, a direct consequence of
the
 > massacres of the past century. Genetically speaking, the more there are,
the
 > better their chances at survival. And, genetically speaking, many experts
 > consider the Yellowstone herd to be the "strongest herd." Therefore, a
herd
 > cap proposed at Yellowstone of 1,700 to 2,200 animals means that the
 > "strongest herd" can only grow so far before it is killed. That is a
 > biological concern for the longevity of the Buffalo Nation.
 >
 > It is a fact that the Yellowstone Park boundaries and attendant ecosystem
can
 > only support so many buffalo. In total, the greater Yellowstone ecosystem,
as
 > it is called, in all of its glory is about 1.75 million acres. Yellowstone
 > National Park was established for the beauty of the location, not for its
 > ability to sustain a buffalo herd in the middle of winter.
 >
 > So it happens year after year, driven by their survival instincts,
Yellowstone
 > buffalo are shot and killed after leaving the park for winter forage. Over
the
 > past four years, the state of Montana and federal officials have killed
1,900
 > of these buffalo as they move in search of food.
 >
 > Then there is the myth of wildness. While the Park Service maintains a
 > non-interference policy with wildlife in the park borders, that
 > non-interference policy does not allow the buffalo to carry on a natural
 > migration to winter grazing lands during the harsh winters. In other
words,
 > they are wild until they hit an invisible border. "They're free ranging,
only
 > until they get to the Montana line," says LaRose. "That's not what would
fit
 > my definition of free ranging . But elk can free range across there (the
 > boundary) because they represent an economic resource to the state of
 > Montana."(LaRose refers to the $11 million generated in elk hunting
permits in
 > the state). John Mack a wildlife biologist for the National Park Service
 > acknowledges the irony, "Bison, wolves, don't recognize a political
boundary,
 > they recognize the land."
 >
 > So it is that the buffalo of Yellowstone are wild enough to live inside
the
 > park, wild enough to die of starvation in the park, if they cannot get to
 > grazing lands, but absolutely dead if they hit the border of the park, if
they
 > hit the bullet fence. That, in its own right illustrates the hypocrisy,
many
 > would say, of public policy over the natural world.
 >
 > Another myth drives the killings - the myth of brucellosis, a dreaded
cattle
 > disease that most of the Yellowstone herd carries. Brucellosis can only be
 > transmitted through fetal materials. A buffalo would have to pretty much
give
 > birth in the face of a cow for that cow to contract the disease. That's
why
 > there has never been one case of a buffalo transmitting the disease to
cattle
 > in the wild. But the supposed risk of brucellosis transmission forms the
 > entire premise of current and proposed buffalo management policy.
 >
 > Most of Yellowstone's 100,000 elk have tested positive for brucellosis,
but
 > state and federal officials have found no need to address this fact. This
may
 > be attributed to the elk's economic importance.
 >
 > It turns out that when the first 19 buffalo slain at Yellowstone last year
 > underwent further testing, 17 of them did not even have brucellosis. And
many
 > of the 90 plus killed were bulls, yearlings and non-pregnant females,
which
 > even the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection team said did not need to
 > die. The brucellosis bogeyman is basically being used to motivate a policy
and
 > process which many believe is rooted in simple economics : access to
grazing
 > land.
 >
 > Millions of dollars are being spent to protect the 2,000 cattle that graze
 > adjacent to Yellowstone National Park from buffalo who pose no threat.
 > Considering the effort, one would think that the 45 million plus cattle in
the
 > ecosystem of the Great Plains are in danger of oblivion.
 >
 > Process leaves out Native People
 >
 > There is immense irony here. Sitting at the policy-making table for the
 > Yellowstone buffalo impact statement is the state of Montana and federal
 > agencies.
 >
 > Absent are the people who actually know the buffalo: the Nez Perce,
Blackfeet
 > and Crow, and others whose treaties actually encompass part of Yellowstone
 > National Park, or the Winnebago, Ho Chunk, Lakota, Anishinabe, Kiowa, Gros
 > Ventre, Cheyenne, Shoshone Bannock and others, whose spiritual practices,
 > cultural practices, languages and lives are entirely intertwined with
buffalo.
 > To us, the buffalo is the Western Doorkeeper, the Elder Brother, the Great
 > One. This is not, at its foundation, a "wildlife management issue" it is a
 > deeper spiritual issue that connects these nations to the very fabric of
who
 > they are.
 >
 > Native representatives are absolutely clear that the Park Service is only
 > making a minimal attempt to include tribes. "It's like they give a call to
 > tell the tribe and, if no one answers, they say, 'Well, we tried,'" says
Jim
 > Garrett.
 >
 > Rosalie Little Thunder, chairwoman of the Seventh Generation Fund,
reiterates
 > that the Native response needs to be taken extremely seriously. "Tribal
 > councils are not to be treated as the general public comments. We are not
the
 > public. We are sovereign nations with government-to-government
requirements."
 >
 > Status of the EIS at Yellowstone
 >
 > After nearly a decade of research and planning, the Park Service released
the
 > Environmental Impact Statement for the future management of Yellowstone
 > buffalo in June of 1998. The document outlines seven alternative
management
 > scenarios. All seven share a chilling common denominator: "lethal
control."
 >
 > The preferred alternative being pushed by the Park Service, known as
 > Alternative Seven, mixes "lethal control" with a potpourri of multi-use,
 > multi-interest management tactics. As the statement notes, "the preferred
 > alternative includes the use of capture, test and slaughter, the creation
of
 > special management areas (SMAs).hazing and shooting bison outside the
SMAs,
 > and on private land within the SMAs, quarantine of some seronegative
bison,
 > hunting for recreational purposes, and to help control bison distribution
,
 > vaccination of bison, the potential acquisition of additional winter
range,
 > and the proposed creation on a SMA on that range as management tools."
 >
 > This proposal, tribes argue, does little to preserve the integrity of the
 > herd, preserve the long-term viability or Yellowstone as an ecosystem for
 > large buffalo and represents instead a non-innovative, those who have guns
 > should make public policy approach to the Yellowstone buffalo herds
future.
 >
 > Butch Denny, chairman of the Santee Dakota, explained the position of most
 > tribes in his testimony to the Park Service. "I'd like to go on record to
show
 > that we are opposed to all seven alternatives . The Santee Tribe of
Nebraska .
 > has a resolution asking for the stop of the killing of the bison in
 > Yellowstone and a removal to the tribes."
 >
 > As well, Poncho Bigby of Fort Belknap, echoed the need for a new set of
 > alternatives with some semblance of representing sentiments of the tribes
and
 > the public. "These tribes that are represented here have indicated that
there
 > are other alternatives outside of the seven that are presented so I ask,
on
 > behalf of the Ft. Belknap Indian community that you look at this other
step,
 > this supplemental EIS, for additional alternatives in what is being
presented
 > now. . Because you have heard everyone here and I haven't heard one person
say
 > that they support any of the (existing) alternatives."
 >
 > Head of the impact statement team for the Park Service, Sarah Branscom has
a
 > difficult job. That's an understatement. At the close of this process her
team
 > is supposed to come up with a final management plan. That final impact
 > statement is expected this coming spring or summer. She has reviewed more
than
 > 65,000 comments and suggestions. Branscom notes that 90 percent of the
 > respondents oppose "preferred alternative seven." In fact, 90 percent do
not
 > like any of the alternatives.
 >
 > Branscom also reports that the Yellowstone impact statement generated more
 > comments from the Native community and tribal governments than any other
in
 > the federal government's history.
 >
 > Gary Silk, whose determination and vision was key to the 500-mile ride and
 > walk from Rapid City to Yellowstone last winter, asked a simple question
that
 > echoes all the questions asked by Native people for the last century. "If
it
 > takes nine years to try and resolve the buffalo issue, there's something
 > completely wrong. When I come to meetings like this and hear things, I
think
 > the people who we deal with must be aliens, the way they think, to allow
all
 > of this to be happening. I think man has to connect himself again with the
 > spiritual world. A lot of these people don't even know who the Creator is.
If
 > they did, they wouldn't allow this to happen. Does every buffalo have to
die
 > before they realize it? Do they have to kill everything on this earth
before
 > they know who they really are as a human being.
 > -------------------------
 > Winona LaDuke is program director for Honor the Earth, a national Native
 > foundation and advocacy program working to increase funding and public
support
 > for Native environmental issues. For more information: 1-800-EARTH-07
 >
 > http://indiancountry.com/headlines.html#articlethree
 >

Reprinted under the Fair Use http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html doctrine 
of international copyright law.
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