Tulalip’s Hibulb Cultural Center hosted the Buffalo Field Campaign’s road show for an evening of music and stories in support of wild buffalo.
The Buffalo Field Campaign is a nonprofit organization that has worked for the past 21 years in support of the last wild buffalo herd in America, which is at Yellowstone National Park.
“We like to educate people about’s what’s happening to our national mammal,” said Mike Mease, co-founder of the Buffalo Field Campaign.
“The last American, free-range, genetically pure Buffalo herd resides in the ecosystem of Yellowstone and when they walk out they get shot,” he said.
Mease said that some estimates put the number of buffalo in America around 600,000, however those include “what we call ‘beefalo,’” which are a hybrid of American cattle and American bison, that look similar to buffalo.
Pure buffalo numbers are down to less than 10,000.
“The only ones that don’t live behind fences and are domesticated are the herd in Yellowstone,” he said.
The nonprofit organization has volunteered to work with the buffalo at Yellowstone and has a road show that helps spread awareness.
Lakota tribal member Goodshield Aguilar has provided music for the group for many years now.
“I knew after watching that film and talking with her [the campaign’s co-founder] that I needed to be a bigger part of saving the Yellowstone buffalo,” he said.
“To the Lakota people the buffalo are very much like what the salmon are to tribes in this area,” he said.
The destruction of natural resources has direct negative impacts on tribes, said Aguilar.
“The epidemic of diabetes in Native Americans is rooted in our traditional diets not being there for us anymore,” he said.
The campaign stopped by Tulalip on Sept. 14 to show a documentary, tell stories and play some music.
Mease said they typically move all over the west coast.
“I think people like the music and the cultural ways we present the information,” he said.
Mease enjoys meeting the people and learning about the different areas he visits as well.
“It’s a really neat cultural exchange,” he said.
Raising awareness for the buffalo is also a good thing, he said.
“People are really astounded because they really don’t know about this issue and it’s kind of eye-opening to them,” he said.
“It’s definitely a sad cause, but sad causes can sometimes unite people, and the more people that are united the more we can get to some changes in this world,” he said.
The organization is currently working to get the buffalo listed as an endangered species.
“And we started that in 2014 but it takes at least eight years,” said Mease. “last year we won a couple of major victories in the courts,” he said.
The group’s goal is to protect the Yellowstone and one day see them be able to roam more freely around the Wyoming and Montana area.
Concerns over cattle disease have resulted in court orders for park rangers to prevent the growth of the herd and rein them into the Yellowstone area mostly, although opponents say that free-range elk are a much greater threat of spreading disease and are not culled to the degree bison are.
“All this is being done with our taxpayer dollars for the benefit of the cattle industry of the state of Montana, but we believe they can live together, that there’s room for Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to have a significant real buffalo herd,” said Mease.
More information about the non-profit is available at buffalofieldcampaign.org.