November 7, 2020
Mitákuyepi, Tatanka Oyate – My Relatives, the Buffalo Nation
- as seen by -Joseph Gazing Wolf @shunkaha3
For Native communities, a relative is not someone you keep at a distance and only see occasionally, or when you need something. Rather, it is someone you welcome in, build trust with, protect, and nurture. It is someone who understands you deeply and your lived experience. Indeed, it is someone who embodies your history and gives it expression. Their movement through life and space complements yours in a natural dance that gives meaning to both your existences.
Relatives may be very different from us—in physical appearance, culture, language, politics, and economics. These differences do not inspire suspicion, but rather a curiosity that is driven by an inclination to understand the role of everyone in the circle of life. In other words, Indigenous peoples are natural scientists.
Tatanka Oyate (above) is a beloved relative for tribal communities throughout the North American plains. In one Lakota creation story, for example, Tatanka sacrifices himself in order to save our people from starvation and the harsh landscape of the northern plains. She is also depicted as a sacred feminine figure in Lakota spirituality, which is telling of the matriarchal structure of buffalo culture. She is an elder who guides us across the surface of the earth, teaching us about our place in the sacred circle of life and our relationships to one another.
EDITOR’S NOTE: National Bison Day is November 7, 2020, a day dedicated to the cultural, ecological, historical, and economic contributions of American bison to the United States.