Stillaguamish Tribe starts buffalo herd with help from Yakama Nation
August 27, 2008 · Updated 5:27 PM
SMOKEY POINT The Stillaguamish Indian Tribes April 30 blessing ceremony for its buffalo herd in Smokey Point seems to have gone well.
We have three calves now, said Stillaguamish Tribal Chair Shawn Yanity. One was born the day after the ceremony and another was born that Friday. The first was born April 15. We think the one born Friday might have been a late twin and we might have one more birth pending.
Yanity had been told that three of the five cows that the Stillaguamish Tribe received from the Yakama Nation were pregnant, but it seems as though four of the cows were pregnant instead.
During the ceremony, both Yanity and Tony Washines, a tribal elder for the Yakama Nation, described the Yakamas gift of eight buffalo to the Stillaguamish Tribe, including three bulls, as a return to traditional customs.
Our brothers, the buffalo, have dedicated themselves in their own way, giving us medicine, food, tools and clothing, said Washines, who led a singing group of fellow Yakama Indians. Theyve carried songs in their heart since creation. Everything we share today was made by the creator. We come together to share and witness the teachings of our elders, which have been passed down since the beginning of time.
On a more material level, Yanity sees the return of buffalo to the Native American diet as a means of combating diabetes and other health problems which have higher rates among Indians than among other demographic groups.
Its not going to replace our deer or fish, but our beef and pork, Yanity said. Our trade routes used to go across the mountains, so were honored that the Yakama have joined us in restoring that practice, by providing us with their help and professional knowledge.
Yanity began working with the Yakama Nation not long after the Stillaguamish Tribe joined the InterTribal Bison Cooperative a year ago. Ervin Carlson, president of the ITBC, attended the ceremony and expressed pride in helping make the exchange possible.
We have 58 member tribes, Carlson said. We can provide access to the excess animals, from one tribe to another, or even from state parks. For many tribes, buffalo have been their economy, providing food, clothing and lodging.
Even now, Yanity was quick to cite the cultural value of buffalo hides and hooves to Native Americans, who use them for drums and regalia. Looking to the future, he hopes this program will benefit not only his own people, but other tribes as well.
Ive talked to other tribes, and theyve liked the idea, Yanity said. Id like to see it adopted as a model throughout the Puget Sound. In the long term, my hope is that this will generate tourism, bringing visitors onto our land.
The current 56-acre property is intended for breeding, rather than hosting tourists, but Yanitys goal is to establish a 200-acre property, for a herd of 60-70 buffalo, where the Stillaguamish Tribe could offer information on its traditional uses of buffalo. In the meantime, the main use of the current herd will be to feed tribal members.