Buffalo Medicine

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Originally Posted July 5th, 2022

In early 2017, I had an anaphylactic reaction that almost cost me my life. I collapsed on the floor of a Walgreens while I was trying to get Benadryl. While the paramedics were trying to resuscitate me, I had a visit with a bull buffalo spirit and he offered the option to stay or to come with him. Since that moment, when I chose life, buffalo had a deep meaning for me.

My relationship with buffalo has challenged and stretched me in so many ways, that I always try to give back whenever possible. When buffalo asked for me to visit Yellowstone as I planned this summer road trip, I knew it was going to be a big visit.

After doing research, I found out that Yellowstone was one of the first established National Parks. One of the reasons (that’s not talked about in history books) is because they continued the “starve the Indian” movement until there were only two dozen Buffalo left in the United States. Once they realized that they had almost exterminated a key species that helped shape the geography of North America, government officials realized they needed to do something to preserve that land mass. They were herded at Pelican Valley, and Yellowstone became their sanctuary.

Dreams of buffalo graced my nights as the time got closer, until I was in the park. As most may know, Yellowstone was flooded due to the huge amounts of rain (which is a good thing because for several years there had been a drought). The day we arrived at the park, it was the same day that the southern loop re-opened. Since we had reservations we were kept “in the know” as soon as the park flooded (links of the helicopter footage showcasing destroyed roads in the comments). When we finally settled into our first night in the park, I dreamt of the land being so angry at humans. The land showed up as the big buffalo bull that visited me in 2017. I asked the buffalo, “But what about me? I’m a human.” The bull snuffled and stomped his foot, making me look down and I realized I was a calf. From there the bull turned away from me to face the tourists that were still gawking, and that’s what the bull/land was really upset at. I was suddenly swarmed and protected by the momma buffalo, pushed into the center. I felt loved, safe, and tender as I woke up with a start.

That morning when I drove, I saw herds of momma buffalo with their calves. The one that came up and out of the fog looked at me after I stopped the camera, and I felt the message of, “We will take care of you, little calf”.

In that, I grow to learn that these elders are my teachers. The land speaks to me in ways that breaks my heart open and I cry rivers of tears. The land has known huge loss, but also unimaginable abundance. I will always be the little sister of creation. Humans are not the center of the world, as we make ourselves out to be.

We, as humans, are not doing our “job” to tend these sacred places. It was originally the First Nations people of this land (and I only speak for North America) who tended that relationship with the land from the perspective of being a steward. They cared for and allowed the earth to not be touched in certain places – because it was only for the wild. They only went where they were invited. We have lost that because humans only view the land as something to be owned, tamed and dominated. But as we can see, the anger of the land can be felt in natural disasters. Yellowstone was tired of people just gawking at the features without taking in WHY to preserve these things. We need to be pushed out of this consumerist mindset of visiting these places of wilderness and nature.

Admittedly, the parks system did not do a good job with tending this land in the beginning. There’s an article linked in the comments of things they have pulled out of some of the thermal features, including socks, bath towels, 76 handkerchiefs, $86.27 in pennies, and $8.10 in other coins. They used to use Old Faithful as a laundromat, and threw freshly caught fish into geysers to have them be cooked by the volcanic features. However, preservation has become more of a priority. Within the past few decades, they’ve started to honor the fumaroles whenever they pop up. They now reroute walkways and roads (due to the washouts and creation of new thermal features) when nature decides to reclaim property that was hers to begin with. Nature has been patient with the little brothers and sisters of creation, but if we don’t start listening there will be more upheaval. If you thought the pandemic was a mere “inconvenience”, then you’re obviously not listening to the signs that nature is trying to show us that she is not happy. I didn’t die and then come back to life just to sit by and say nothing. I was given the opportunity to live, and now I speak on behalf of life.

The way of life we are living in this modern day era is not sustainable. Now that the pandemic is over, I see people acting as if it didn’t happen. They are so glad to go back to “normal”. The reason why the pandemic came was because that semblance of “normal” was not healthy to begin with. We need to wake up and see how our actions are affecting the wider world. If we don’t listen to the land, the land will force us to listen one way or another.

When I spoke before about the land being “angry”, that is a human personification of the land. It doesn’t have human emotions, but that’s the closest I can come to describing how the land feels to me. The land cares about function, and it’s ability to do said function. Places like Yellowstone are not for our pleasure, they are here to serve as a reminder of nature’s ability to heal itself without much human interference. When people take selfies with the fluffy cows or use the volcanic geysers to do their laundry, I’m not surprised that the Yellowstone river flooded its banks and washed out roads, or at the rock slides, fallen trees or bridges destroyed.

So what does this mean for us in our everyday lives? Look at the places in your life where you are not living your function. The places where you have fallen into complacency, burn out, or numbness. How connected are you to nature? If the power in the grid goes out, how will you live? Do you know what the potato plant looks like (you know, the thing that eventually turns into french fries)? Is your life’s purpose connected to mindlessly scrolling through Facebook for entertainment or watching TV on your couch all evening? Start simply by doing small things to connect to nature. I’m not trying to shame anyone. We’re all trying to do the best we can. Look up what different food crops look like or take a tour through a community garden. Take care of a house plant or start a garden if you have the space. We need to do something about bridging this gap where we have created a separation between humans and nature. Nature is not just a spectacle to enjoy on our time off. It represents life, and all life is sacred. So how do we slowly start bringing the sacred into our everyday lives?

I am not a guru or some self help person that’s trying to help fix you or feed you false hope of spiritual bypass. I’m simply a person whose heart breaks whenever I see the impact of human ignorance on natural land features with broken ecosystems. I’m not “in it” for myself, but because I care about the world my grandchildren are going to inherit. And I also want to be nice to the super volcano in the middle of North America.

The world is ready for your medicine. But are you living it?

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