Rj Rita Jones (Notoweega Clan Mother) at Yellowstone National Park with Jimmy St. Goddard (Blackfeet Hereditary Chief.) Entering for Ceremony to protect the Buffalo, During Shutdown
Link →Buffalo Field Campaign
By Shawna Burkham October 9th 2013
Hunker down, RJ and I have been out west for a week + for a trip that was planned months ago to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. That was before congress lost its mind and closed everything.
So we made the most of the trip (we went with 3 other friends) and we saw some amazing sights and had a wonderful time.
But Monday, Divine Order prevailed. I am here to tell you that 16 people - including the 5 of us - spent the afternoon in Yellowstone National Park. The CLOSED to the public National Park. Odd things happened in an odd order and we arrived at the West Yellowstone gate just to say we had "been there" and take pictures.
When we arrived we saw a small group of people 100 yards away talking to the park rangers at the actual gate. Rangers who are working even though not being paid. Two of the people were obviously Native Americans and the man said to RJ as she walked up (don't know why - she just decided to walk up) "you're indigenous, aren't you?" She told him she was and he said "I knew it" and walked her into to the group.
The Buffalo Field Campaign, a group out of West Yellowstone was there to prepare to go into the park with the man who took RJ. He is the head spiritual leader of the Blackfeet Nation. They do a ceremony in the park to ask for protection for the Yellowstone herd, which is the only pure buffalo herd left in the US. All of the rest of the herds have been crossbred with cattle. So this herd, which is very sacred, has been hazed and even killed with the approval of the park and the government and this ceremony is apparently performed to ask for protection for them and yesterday was the day it was to be performed.
We had no inkling of any of this.
So up the chain of park command the request went for clearance for this sacred ceremony which had to take place in a certain area of Yellowstone. We stood, we waited, we couldn't believe it, but after about a half hour we were approved to go in. A caravan of three cars plus a ranger drove about 30 miles into the park to Fountain Flats, where the prayer ceremony complete with sage and tobacco and cedar and sweet grass was held. It was powerful. We stood together in a circle, listened to him speak and pray, shared our requests for humanity and nature - all the while two buffalo grazed then lay in the meadow not too far away. It was as though they knew we were there for them. They didn't leave the whole time we were there. The sun shone, the skies were blue, several ravens and what looked like an eagle flew in and out, the wind blew gently and it was amazing.
As we drove in and out of the park we were not permitted to stop, but we did see that area of the park and we did pass elk herds along the road as well as three or four more buffalo "galoomping" alongside the road, too. We were driving along the Madison River almost the whole way in and out. I tell you it was magic.
So even though I never saw Old Faithful, or the falls, or the mud pots, we did visit Yellowstone at a time that no one else was permitted to do so. We were alone in Yellowstone Park on a gorgeous October afternoon.
I will never forget it. And I like the way one of the other men in the group put it. He was also there completely serendipitously and he commented that he had always led a charmed life and he considered yesterday just another "tender mercy" that was shone him. And I feel the same.