YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK Early this past Friday morning, Buffalo Field Campaign patrols in Gardiner discovered “some interesting events” taking place at the access road to Yellowstone’s highly controversial Stephens Creek buffalo trap. BFC reported seeing a lot of law enforcement and some yellow barrels blocking the road. A short time later, a press release from the Wild Buffalo Defense collective appeared on Facebook, announcing that two of their members had locked down to three concrete-filled barrels in an attempt to block slaughter trucks from accessing the trap and transporting wild buffalo to slaughter facilities.
More than 1,000 wild Yellowstone buffalo have been hunted, slaughtered, or held for quarantine (domestication) so far this winter. Fewer than 3,700 buffalo remain in the country’s last wild, migratory herds.
The Wild Buffalo Defense press release stated that the two men who locked down today have been identified as Wolf and Coyote. Their release reported that the men “blocked the gate with three 55-gallon drums filled with concrete, locking their arms inside the barrels.” The barrels contained two messages: “Protect the Sacred,” and “Honor the Treaties.” Yellowstone’s trap and the maltreatment of the country’s last wild buffalo is viewed by the majority of indigenous people as a continuation of genocide. By around 9am, the two men had been removed and arrested.
Wild Buffalo Defense’s release included statements from the two men:
Wolf stated, “My father is from Michaocan, Mexico, so I have both Native and colonizer blood. Since I wasn’t raised in a Native setting, this is my way to give back to the Native community. I’m from Illinois — it’s called the Prairie State, and there’s less than one-one-hundredth of the prairie left. It’s all strip malls and corn fields…I don’t like seeing just concrete and steel. Seeing how peaceful the buffalo are and how strong they are, they go through enough hardship in their lives in the forest and the plains, then with what Yellowstone National Park is doing to them, they still carry on. They inspire me to keep going.”
Part of Coyote’s statement read, “I’m doing this to … protect the buffalo and the lands that they roam… Whenever I’m with the buffalo, I feel like my heart runs with them. When I’m with them they already know the questions, they already know the answers, and I don’t have to respond because they already know.”
Due to extensive law enforcement sending people away from the scene, Buffalo Field Campaign patrols were unable to see the men, but they did report seeing yellow barrels blocking the access road. Wild Buffalo Defense reported seeing tractors making a new road (photo), and later BFC witnessed the stock trailers using this road to drive around the blockade, destroying habitat (photo) important to elk, deer, pronghorn, and buffalo, in order to access the trap and load up wild buffalo for slaughter. BFC was able to get some photos and footage before being asked to leave by law enforcement, who claimed they were “obstructing” the adjacent county road, Old Yellowstone Trail. Footage and photos are available upon request.
This is the second time that Wild Buffalo Defense has targeted Yellowstone’s trap. On March 6 (BFC press release), two men locked down to the squeeze chute – the Silencer – inside Yellowstone’s bison capture facility.
“The Stephens Creek buffalo trap stands as a monument to oppression and control over beings who were born to roam free,” said Stephany Seay, media coordinator with the wild buffalo advocacy group Buffalo Field Campaign. “The buffalo are the embodiment of wildness and freedom, and these qualities are precisely the reason they were chosen to represent this nation, supposedly the land of the free. It is ironic that these two brave men have been arrested for trying to protect freedom, and that Yellowstone is the one punishing them for trying to protect the buffalo — a job the Park should be doing.”
Yellowstone has captured 750 of the country’s last wild buffalo, and have been rapidly shipping them to slaughter facilities, an activity that is strongly opposed by the majority of Montanans, American citizens, and people world-wide. Hunting has also taken a toll on this vulnerable population, with more than 250 having been killed along Yellowstone’s north and west boundaries. Bison managers signed on to the highly controversial Interagency Bison Management Plan set a quota to kill up to 900 wild buffalo this winter, all to appease the interests of Montana’s livestock lobby. With combined capture-for-slaughter and quarantine, and hunting, over 1,000 wild buffalo have been eliminated from the last continuously wild population. These agencies have far exceeded that goal.
Tosef Gavette, Buffalo Field Campaign’s volunteer coordinator who is patrolling in Gardiner this week said, “Watching buffalo die day in and day out is extremely trying and hard, and it’s a hard decision to continue doing that. Making the decision to sacrifice your freedom is an even harder decision to make. I hope that one day through these decisions being made that all of this hard work will have paid off and the buffalo will roam free.”
“Buffalo Field Campaign is thankful to these brave men for taking these actions, risking life, limb, and freedom to help prevent more wild buffalo from going to slaughter,” said Mike Mease, Buffalo Field Campaign’s cofounder. “While BFC as an organization cannot take these kinds of actions, we have shared values, and we are in solidarity with anyone who is working to liberate wild buffalo and protect them from indiscriminate slaughter, quarantine, and domestication.”
The press release from Wild Buffalo Defense concluded with, “…Buffalo are sacred creatures to the Plains Indians. Blackfeet and Lakota prophecies say that when the wild buffalo return, the people and the earth will be healed. Yellowstone National Park currently captures and slaughters about 25% of the herd every year. If this mismanagement of the population continues, these prophecies will never be fulfilled.