The American Buffalo, or American Plains Bison, is a majestic symbol of the American West. Its story is rife with controversy and tragedy, and its resurgence stands as an important step towards a new beginning. You can read some of that history here: Buffalo History. You can read about the recovery efforts here: Buffalo recovery
This month, a group of 89 genetically pure buffalo calves will return to the Blackfeet of Montana tribe. These calves are descendants of a small group of buffalo that were husbanded in the Canadian wilderness preserves.
According to Smithsonian.com:
Back in 1872, Chris Peterson of Hungry Horse News reported that a Salish and Kootenai Warrior named Running Coyote was having trouble with his tribe. As an apology, he and several friends rounded up buffalo calves on Blackfeet land and brought them over the Continental Divide to the Salish and Kootenai as a gift. The apology didn’t really work out, and ranchers Charles Allard and Michel Pablo took charge of the bison herd, eventually growing it to 300 animals over the next 25 years.
Near the turn of the century, disputes over grazing rights meant the herd had to be sold. Teddy Roosevelt reportedly wanted the animals, but Congress wouldn’t release the funds. So Pablo sold the buffalo to the Canadian government, which shipped the animals to Elk Island National Park, outside Edmonton, Alberta, where the herd has stayed for over 100 years.
To celebrate the return of these animals to the US, we want to share a look at our Pendleton buffalo blankets. The names link to pendleton-usa.com, where you can find out more information on each of these beautiful blankets.
The rare white bison occurs only once in every 10 million births. In 1933, a white buffalo was born in the wild on Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation and was called “Big Medicine” to reflect his sacred power. Many Native American tribes consider the return of the White Buffalo the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy and the beginning of a new era for the peoples and Mother Earth. Tradition spoke of the coming of a herd of pure White Buffalo. The seven bison on this blanket represent the seven directions: North, South, East, West, Above, Below and Within. Together they symbolize wholeness for mankind and the earth. Prayer pipes signify mankind’s communication with the Creator. In the center of the blanket, within the circle of life, are four hands representing the diverse peoples of the world and a new beginning. Shades of brown and green reflect the natural beauty of Mother Earth.
We have been asked over the years if this blanket contains real white buffalo hair. There was a VERY limited edition of this blanket woven with the hair of a rare white buffalo (and those will have a special patch to identify them) produced in 2010. Sales of the blanket helped benefit a nonprofit that, among other endeavors, funded the buffalo sanctuary where a rare white buffalo lived. You can read about that here: White Buffalo Blanket
The buffalo was revered by many Native American tribes. The meat gave them food. The hides provided robes for warmth, tepee covers for shelter and shields for protection. Horns were crafted into bowls and arrowheads, and fat was rendered for candles and soap. The Buffalo Roam blanket captures the power of that mighty beast of the plains. The design by Native American watercolor artist Joe Toledo puts the sacred buffalo in perspective. Looming large in close-up and appearing smaller in the distance, it was ever present in the lives of the Plains Indians. Mr. Toledo mixes soft rainwater with his colors to reflect images from his Jemez Pueblo culture. His works are exhibited in collections in the United States, Canada and Europe.
The Buffalo Wilderness design recalls a peaceful time long, long ago. It was the time when millions of buffalo roamed grassy plains from Oregon to the Great Lakes, from Canada to Mexico. Today our National Parks protect the wilderness, and the remaining buffalo there roam free. One of the largest herds (more than 4,000) of free-ranging wild buffalo lives in and around Yellowstone National Park. It is thought to be the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. You can also see herds in Badlands, Grand Teton, Theodore Roosevelt and Wind Cave National Parks. A portion of the sales of this blanket are donated to the National Park Foundation to support projects in Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks (details at the link at bottom of page).
Prairie Rush Hour
The bison, often referred to as the buffalo, is the largest land mammal in North America. A big buffalo can weigh a ton (2,000 pounds!) and stand six feet tall. And they can run as fast as 35 miles an hour. Long ago millions of these mighty buffalo roamed the plains, prairies and river valleys. It was a time when there were no houses on the hills. When countless forests were green and the trees grew tall. When deer grazed by mighty rivers. Today you can see wild buffalo only in our National Parks, where they are protected. You can see one of the largest herds of wild buffalo in the United States in Yellowstone National Park. A portion of the sales of this blanket are donated to the National Park Foundation to support projects in Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks. The Prairie Rush Hour is a jacquard throw that measures 64″ x 64″. This blanket is also available in crib-size.
Buffalo Creation Story
Buffalo are not typically associated with Navajo culture. So when contemporary Navajo artist Andrew Hobson discovered a story of how the buffalo evolved in Navajo creation stories, he was fascinated. Hobson’s original painting of the Buffalo-Who-Never-Dies of the White Buffalo Tribe inspired this Pendleton blanket. In the tale, Buffalo became angry with Holy Man for having two buffalo women as his wives. Holy Man killed the angry buffalo with magic arrows and wands. But to his dismay, all the buffalos began to die. Then sad, Holy Man brought the buffalo back to life and showed him how to revive all the other buffalo. The central figure shows the angry buffalo fractured in pieces to symbolize his death and journey back to life. Four buffalo tribes are shown inside protective medicine hoops, and the four sacred mountain ranges of the Navajo surround the central buffalo. The artist frames the work in the abstract rainbow symbolizing his personal Yeii, or protective deity. This blanket is part of the Pendleton Legendary Series.