The American Bison, “Facing the Storm”

bison2We are sometimes asked for suggestions on books, courses, websites and other information that helps people learn about American Indian history, culture and contemporary issues.  We have a list of resources we like on our website and also wanted to share this additional resource:  Facing The Storm: Story of the American Bison, aired on Montana PBS.

It is estimated that in the mid-nineteenth century there were 30 million bison but, by 1885, there were fewer than 100 left in America. The extreme drop in the bison population was related to reckless overhunting by white settlers as well as government efforts to weaken and starve the Plains Indians by eliminating their main food source.  Several key historical figures played a role in the wildlife conservation effort that resulted in the survival of the bison.  “Facing the Storm” describes the extraordinary effort that has been necessary to protect and restore the bison from near extinction.

This film also describes the relationship of the Plains Indian tribes with the bison. Many Plains tribes believe they live on Earth in equal partnership with their animal relatives.  This is reflected in the Lakota prayer, Mitakuye Oyasin, which means “all my relations” or “we are all related.” The bison was the primary provider for the human needs of the Plains tribes and is therefore connected with the creation and continuation of life.  To learn more about the cultural significance of the bison to Plains tribes, visit story of the bison and other sites.

The bison continues to be an important part of Plains Indian culture.  We were recently fortunate to receive a donation of a buffalo from the herd of St. Labre Indian School in Montana, a long-time Program Partner. The buffalo will be use to prepare a huge meal for all Plains Program Partners at our 2011 Open House, to be held in our Plains program office in Rapid City, South Dakota. This event will feature a discussion with Linwood Tall Bull about the cultural significance and traditional uses of the buffalo.  Linwood is a historian from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and chairperson of one of our eight programs.

We hope you will  learn more about the important history of human relations with the bison and share your thoughts with us. If you don’t catch the story on Montana PBS, you can also buy it from High Plains Films.

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