When I first became involved in the practice of shamanism little did I know that one day I would become a blanket carrier for the Buffalo People, nor that doing so would involve travels closely approximating pilgrimages.
On September 29, 2013 sometimes-assistant and friend Debbie Noyes and I set out on our annual trip to A Walk on the Wild Side: Answering the Call of the Wild at Earthfire Institute in Driggs, ID. However, the Bison Elders wanted something done beforehand. I was to bring the Buffalo Blanket to Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming first and there conduct a ceremony. Devil’s Tower is also called Mato Tipila, or Bear Lodge, and is considered sacred by many Native American tribes.
After visiting Little Big Horn Battlefield where the message was “Peace with unity,” we arrived at Devil’s Tower Lodge the evening of September 30 after a drive of over 1100 miles in two days.
Talk about divine timing—the following morning all National Parks and Monuments were officially closed as a result of the government shutdown. We were understandably concerned about how the closure would affect us since they were not letting anyone into the park, but the Bison Elders had it covered. Devil’s Tower Lodge happened to be located inside the park, not outside of it. The rangers told us we had a couple of hours before they would have to ask people to leave.
And not only were we able to complete the ceremony, we pretty much had the park all to ourselves, which was amazing.
After the ceremony at Devil’s Tower the Buffalo Blanket was part of ceremonies conducted at A Walk on the Wild Side with attendees and with resident buffalo ambassadors Bluebell and Nima.
The final guidance I received was to bring the Buffalo Blanket and the energy and connections it carried to Yellowstone National Park, which presented a serious challenge since all National Parks were still closed. The message was strong, so in faith and trust we set hit the road once again, arriving in West Yellowstone the afternoon of October 7. Our government was still locked in disagreement, which meant that Yellowstone was still closed to the public.
As we drove into town we caught the attention of a raven who gazed intently at us. I had the feeling that our arrival was being noted.
At lunch I asked our waitress what impact the government shutdown was having on the restaurant and the town. She told us that half of the workers had been let go since so few tourists were coming. Local businesses had lost one month of profitability from a season that is only five months long—creating major financial hardships for everyone.
She pointed to a nearby table of four people and told us that they had traveled from Great Britain to the U.S. for a six-week tour of our National Parks—which were currently closed.
I felt embarrassed for my government who could not seem to reach accord, and felt badly for all of the people affected. It certainly did not appear that the needs of the American people were being supported. Everyone was suffering as a result of the inability of our political representatives to unite in working toward a common goal.
But it seemed that there was nothing I could do at present to help—the problem I needed to solve was how to get into Yellowstone without getting arrested.
The guidance I received was to look at a map of Yellowstone which we did using Debbie’s iPhone, and that’s when we discovered that Hwy 191 not only ran alongside Yellowstone, it actually crossed into a small section of the park itself. Score!
Our waitress confirmed that piece of information and told us that we would see a sign welcoming us to Yellowstone National Park.
But before we could go there the Bison Elders had another task for us—we were to drive to the closed West Yellowstone entrance and present the Buffalo Blanket.
Having been to Yellowstone twice before it felt very strange to drive up to the entrance and see all the barriers. It felt so wrong to keep the animals, the land and the people separated, and I finally began to get a glimmering of understanding of why we were on this journey at this particular time.
Traditionally the buffalo represent abundance and the unity of the Buffalo People through the community of the herd. Over a period of two years the Buffalo Blanket has been presented to buffalo herds across the west and has also been involved in sacred ceremonies to rebuild the connections between people and animals. The healing energy and the connections that it represented were needed at this time of national crisis and discord. And so Debbie blessed the National Park sign with sacred tobacco from Devil’s Tower, and I raised the Buffalo Blanket to face the closed entrance. I felt the energetic flow and the connection with the bison and the land even though I could not physically enter.
I felt drawn to approach the barrier. On one of the signs detailing the government closure someone had scribbled a derogatory remark about the leader of our country, and I reflected sadly that what was happening was not the fault of one man, but the responsibility of many. I sprinkled sacred tobacco on the sign and prayed that we might all achieve peace through unity.
Resuming our journey, Debbie and I set out on Hwy 191. As we drove we again noticed a raven flying with us, and for the rest of the journey through Yellowstone we always seemed to be under the watchful eye of one or more.
Stopping at the sign stating that we were entering Yellowstone National Park we again presented the Buffalo Blanket, yet I sensed that there was something more we needed to do.
We were directed to stop at a stream that headed into Yellowstone. When I realized that it was the intention of the Bison Elders to connect the energy of the Buffalo Blanket to the Gallatin River—thereby transporting the energy into Yellowstone—I informally (but admiringly) exclaimed, “You sneaky little devils!”
After a little exploration I found an area where I could get really close to the water as it flowed on by. I ended up precariously balancing the Buffalo Blanket in its bag on a rock that projected out, and prayed that we both did not fall in while the energy went merrily along its way.
I thought our journey was complete at that point, but the Bison Elders were being thorough. As we continued driving alongside the Gallatin River the energy continued to flow into Yellowstone until, after many miles, we finally drove out of range.
And while driving through Gallatin National Forest I finally caught a glimpse of my heart’s desire—a herd of wild bison. I raised the Buffalo Blanket in salute and sent a silent prayer that the People—buffalo and human—be united once again.
BREAKING NEWS: Apparently we were not the only ones called to the gates of West Yellowstone that same October afternoon. “Led by Blackfeet tribal member and spiritual leader of the Blackfeet Confederacy, James St. Goddard, members of Buffalo Field Campaign and some visitors from afar entered the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park to gather and pray for the well-being and recovery of America’s last wild buffalo.” from Buffalo Field Campaign
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Think Outside the Cage
In private practice since 1996, Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing, is a mesa carrier in the Peruvian shamanic tradition, animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, author and artist. As an animal shaman she views her mission as one of building bridges between people and animals through healing sessions, classes, ceremonies and events such as A Walk on the Wild Side: Answering the Call of the Wild, and Animals As Healers and Teachers.
Rose’s book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.
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