Return to home page of The Home of the Bison (Full Text)
The Home of the Bison - Resources and Their Protection - Animals
There are many floral, faunal, and mineral resources on park lands that constitute traditional cultural properties. On lands under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, these resources are already guaranteed a high measure of protection. The concerns that tribes have expressed include the protection of these resources from the potentially destructive forces of development, such as new trails and roads, or the casual, and often illegal, takings of park visitors and local residents. Tribes also have a legitimate, traditional cultural interest in gaining limited access to some of these resources for use in healing and the conduct of any of a variety of religious observances, and again, we recommend that the NPS consider the possibility of allowing limited extractive activity. In discussing the types of traditional cultural properties at Wind Cave National Park, it must be emphasized that the information presented here and in the body of the report and its appendices represents only a portion of the knowledge that the Cheyenne, Lakota, and Arapaho retain on animals, plants, minerals, and soils. Much of this knowledge remains unrecorded and unpublished and is transmitted orally in traditional contexts. Some of it, particularly that which pertains to healing and ceremonial use, is privileged information, held by traditional religious practitioners and not widely known. Therefore, nothing contained in this summary or the report should be construed as exhaustive of the possible uses and meanings associated with natural resources that conform to the designation of a traditional cultural property.
1) Animals: Wind Cave National Park's cultural identity and spiritual significance in the eyes of Lakota and Cheyenne people is closely tied to its animals, especially the bison. Historically, these tribes had a twofold relationship to the area; first, it was a highly regarded hunting ground, and second, it was a spiritual place, a location spirits frequented and one where important transformative processes took place that gave animals and humans the breath of life. Since hunting is outlawed on park lands, this activity no longer takes place here. However, since 1937, when House Resolution 8773 was passed, authorizing the park to donate its surplus game meat to local tribes, it has remained an important and highly valued source of food for local tribes (pp. 177-178). Bison and other game animals that inhabit park properties are seen as particularly significant because they live in proximity to their underworld spiritual homes and because they feed on the grounds where the Great Race took place, where humans first emerged on the earth's surface, or where Falling Star traveled in his various quests to save the people. Some may even believe that the meat of animals grazed on park land has greater health-giving properties (p.173). Besides meat, there are many other animal parts, including hides, bones, skulls, teeth, shells, cartilage, bones, blood, and organs that have traditional cultural uses and purposes. Tribal members might legitimately request any of these when local herds are culled. The following list summarizes the animals whose body parts have been customarily used as food, in manufacturing, in healing and in various religious observances. A more detailed discussion of these uses is found in Appendix A (pp. 698-807) and also in Chapter Ten (pp. 356-381).
TABLE A: Summary of Faunal Cultural Properties Historically Associated with Wind Cave National Park and Used Bythe Lakotas and Cheyennes