Ceremony and the hunt: Crow Tribe teaches about the buffalo

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Photo by Carl Danelski

Glenn Plenty Hawk and others gather around the buffalo at Veterans’ Park in Crow Agency. The buffalo was killed as part of an educational event intended to teach younger members of the Crow Tribe about buffalo-harvesting procedures.

Photo by Carl Danelski

Whitney Bulltail and Tayleah OldBull wash buffalo stomach in the Little Bighorn River Saturday. Every part of the buffalo was used, from meat to the marrow, and from the tripe to the dusty hide.

Glenn Plenty Hawk and Kenneth Deputy Jr. were two of the first to arrive at Apsáalooke Veterans Park on the banks of the Little Bighorn River in Crow Agency on Saturday morning. They proceeded to unload firewood from the back of a pickup before leaving for the trailer. They were going to pick up the buffalo.

The Crow Tribe, with the help of Chairman Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid, had organized an educational and ceremonial gathering centered around the harvesting of a buffalo and two beef cattle, which were donated for the event. The tribe collectively manages a herd of about 1,400 buffalo, and Alvin Yarlott Sr. is the manager of the herd. Buffalo are selective grazers, and unlike beef cattle, the buffalo knows the difference between certain grasses. The herd functions in a few separate groups, and their hooves are specially evolved for the purpose of turning over the topsoil as they roam, thereby ensuring fresh grass when they return.

Joe Bear Cloud, the facilitator for the day’s activities, was the first to use the microphone, speaking Apsáalooke, and focusing the entire gathering around the killing and butchering of the buffalo and the two beef. Simon Bulltail shot the buffalo, and then proceeded to organize the fleshing out of the animal. Once the buffalo was finished being processed, Kirby Yarlott shot a beef animal. There were several large pots centered over the many fires, and these were used to boil tripe and other parts from the inside of the buffalo.

Burton Pretty On Top also assumed responsibilities as speaker for the event, and during an aside he explained some backstory.

“The chairman gave me a call this morning, and said for me to come down and help out with the announcing,” he said. “To more or less teach the children.”

For Pretty On Top, the concept of harvesting game and using it as a means of survival is nothing new.

“When I was young, I was raised by my grandfather,” he said. “We lived up in the mountains because he was a game warden for the Crow Tribe back then. There was a little cabin on top of the mountain that’s called Windy Point. That’s where we lived. Hunting was part of our activities, and hunting elk and deer was our source of food. All we needed at that time when we came down for supplies was salt, sugar and some flour for bread. But our main source of food back then was venison, deer and elk.”

Chairman Not Afraid also spoke to the gathering, taking a moment before the meal to connect. He articulated concerns for the tribe’s budget, as well as the rights to hunt and the ability for the tribe to function in collaboration with the federal government.

He cautioned, “When tribes are not active with the senators, they pass bills on reservations. So without us at the table, we end up losing pieces of our sovereignty. We want to retain our sovereignty. We want to protect and preserve for seven generations… These past two years in office, I recognize that we weren’t financially responsible, but that’s not for me to blame anybody.”

“You voted me in to fix a problem, so that problem is being fixed,” he said. “The Apsáalooke are going to prevail. The Apsáalooke are going to live. The Apsáalooke are going to continue to take care of each other.”

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