After I returned from this year’s annual A Walk on the Wild Side: Answering the Call of the Wild Earthfire Institute director Susan Eirich honored me by asking if I would write an essay for their Winter newsletter. Originally it was intended to only be 500 words in length, but we realized that readers not familiar with the back story might be a bit puzzled—so, instead it grew into a two-page feature. We were blessed to have award-winning videographer Andrew Hinton join us in ceremony this year so there are also some very beautiful photos to accompany “Blanket for the Buffalo.” With gracious permission from Susan I am delighted to be able to share the entire story with you here. Enjoy!
“We urgently need to use, and integrate, many perspectives in our environmental issues. One source of our difficulties is a lack of a multifaceted approach. We need spiritual, artistic, scientific, indigenous, practical, and ethical ways of understanding issues. To that end Earthfire, in its capacity as an incubator for new approaches to conservation, holds retreats that explore these different approaches in an attempt to encourage integration. One example would be the shamanic retreat held annually here with Rose De Dan, who uses ceremony to build bridges between humans and animals for global healing. I have been told of a group of Buddhist lamas who spend three months each year in deep meditation to raise the general consciousness level of the world. They do this despite their busy teaching schedules because they consider it so important. In a way that is what Rose is doing below with the bison.”—Susan Eirich, Earthfire Institute and Retreat Center
Blanket for the Buffalo
by Rose De Dan
On my way to the first shamanic retreat at Earthfire in 2010, I had a vision. I was admiring the muted colors of the Montana landscape as it slid by, mile after mile. There was the occasional glimpse of livestock amidst fences and rocky buttes. Then, all at once, everything I had been seeing disappeared. In its place was a vast herd of bison, covering the land, and off to the side, an abundance of pronghorn antelope. So many individuals—it seemed as though the earth itself were moving.
And then, just as suddenly, I was seeing the original landscape again, but with a different perspective. In contrast to the abundance of life in the vision that had filled the plain, now the land felt barren and I could feel the fences that divided properties and retained livestock as boundaries that restricted the freedom of wildlife and the flow of energy. My soul wept for what was lost, and I realized that I had somehow slipped into a time that once was—a time when the buffalo and pronghorn roamed freely and the native peoples lived in harmony with the land and the animals.
That vision stayed with me during our incredible meetings with the animals at Earthfire, and especially when we met Bluebell, the buffalo. Shamanic visions are intensely spiritual and huge in perspective—giving an overview of a major issue. Meeting Bluebell was very grounding. Meeting her made the vision real, and it was easier to put a face on all of the buffalo herds I saw afterwards.
Bluebell’s energy was incredibly rich and powerful. One’s body leaned toward her perhaps in awareness, on a deeper level, of the connection that the tribes had with the vast herds that once roamed this land. And the feeling was mutual. Bluebell had adopted humans as her herd.
Over the following years I would return again to the vision and to the feeling I had when in Bluebell’s presence. I became aware of a pull to visit Yellowstone, our nation’s first national park and a site of great importance to the buffalo and the ceremonies.
As I researched the history of bison I learned that their near extermination in the 1800’s was linked with our government’s desire to eliminate the perceived Indian threat: kill a tribe’s food source and you eradicated an entire people.
The government almost succeeded. By 1902 only 23 wild buffalo remained in Yellowstone National Park. Today the herd numbers about 4,000, and it is estimated that the land can only support about 2,000—a crisis that has sparked legal and ethical debates as we search for solutions ranging from restoring free-range to the herds, to culling by slaughter.
And suddenly, in the midst of immersion in research, it all fell into place. I understood what Spirit wanted; we were to incorporate the relationship between the people, animals and the land into ceremony to assist in rebuilding the bridge and healing the rift.
My spirit guides instructed me to purchase a specific Pendleton blanket called Big Medicine as a gift for the buffalo themselves. The design commemorates the birth of a sacred white buffalo born in 1933 on the Flathead Indian Reservation, named “Big Medicine” to reflect its sacred power. The blanket description read: “Many Native American tribes consider the return of the White Buffalo the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy and the beginning of a new era for the peoples and Mother Earth. Tradition spoke of the coming of a herd of pure White Buffalo. The seven bison on this blanket represent the seven directions: North, South, East, West, Above, Below and Within. Together they symbolize wholeness for mankind and the earth. Prayer pipes signify mankind’s communication with the Creator. In the center of the blanket, within the circle of life, are four hands representing the diverse peoples of the world and a new beginning.”
Every year the Blanket and I travel to buffalo herds in various states and present it to them. And every year the blanket is presented to buffalo elder Bluebell and young white buffalo Nima at Earthfire as part of our ceremonies with humans and the animals.
Bluebell takes her role as leader seriously and is very sensitive to energy. She is also a focal point to bring the energy of all those buffalo herds back to—she is a part of the reweaving of the whole. The Buffalo Blanket has a great deal of energy due to its buffalo connections and the shamanic ceremonies. When I present the blanket to Bluebell she usually licks it, trying to “eat” the good energy.
But this year our experiences were very different. Before our 2014 retreat the Blanket was presented to the buffalo at Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park and the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Instead of being able to visit peacefully with the buffalo we found the herd at Custer State Park had been rounded up like cattle and corralled, and were due to be vaccinated and culled. At the Rosebud Reservation we ended up being swept up by the park rangers into the chaos of a spontaneous buffalo roundup. It was heartbreaking to see the buffalo running before us in fear—to watch mothers afraid for their calves. There was nothing sacred in how the buffalo were treated in either place.
This time when I presented the Blanket to Bluebell at the beginning of A Walk on the Wild Side, she immediately sensed the difference in the energy and let us all know what she thought by lowering her head and swiping the blanket with her horns repeatedly. I was in total agreement with her. Buffalo should be treated with respect.
On behalf of the buffalo, we (the people, animals and the Blanket) brought that energy of disrespect and lack of connection to the sacred to fire ceremony to be cleared, in hopes of creating a new beginning for all. And when the cleansing was complete and the Blanket imprinted with the transformed energy, I again presented it to Bluebell. She “tasted” its energy and then imprinted it with her own by rubbing her face and chin on it—she approved. The healing had begun.
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.