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AMERICAN SYMBOL, BISON OR EAGLE?

 

The bald eagle is the official symbol of the United States but it was a tossup with the bison which might have won if it could fly.

 

June 28, 2023

Barbara "BJ" Andrews, SAAB Member

 

You know a lot about the soaring, high-flying American eagle but you probably don’t know that the Department Of The Interior says “The American bison was named the national mammal of the United States on May 9, 2016.

 

 

OK, so two different animal species define this great nation. That’s pretty cool!

 

What you may not know is that despite the song phrase “…where the buffalos roam…” was a misnomer because buffalos (often called “water buffalo”) are native to South Asia and Africa, not America!

 

It is Bison that roam Yellowstone and private prairies, NOT buffalo. In fact, they are called the American Bison because they are unique to the American continent and to our cultural identity. But sadly, where there were once over a million Bison on the American plains, there are now only about 11,000 genetically pure bison in the whole country and most of them are in Yellowstone National Park.

 

Bison are one of the greatest conservation success stories in our history. Let’s keep it that way… and let’s keep bison as our unique American animal symbol.

 

 

Note that bison have beards, as well as a “mane” over their thick brownish coats which is shed in the spring. Another simple way to tell a bison from a buffalo is to look at its horns. Bison horns are short and pointed – dangerous weapons as opposed to the buffalo’s thicker and blunt-ended headpiece.

 

Contrary to the “natural order” of such things, we can thank the Bison’s only natural enemy for its continued existence. The National Park Service correctly states “Native Americans relied heavily on bison for their survival and well-being, using every part of the bison for food, clothing, shelter, tools, jewelry and in ceremonies.

 

We are grateful to the “First Americans” who revered the massive creatures. The American Bison sustained the “American Indians” for centuries. The natives took only what they needed for food, clothing and shelter and the great bison herds provided all of that. Bison horns also made great weapons when in the hand of a human. Their thick fur coats were ice, snow and water resistant which provided warm beds for all Northern and mid-west tribes.

 

 

Thus, the American bison was honored and revered whereas today they are slaughtered without ceremony or thanks and then sold as “specialty meats” or their hair-on skins sold as high-dollar rugs and specialty items. In fact, Yellowstone History notes that “more wild buffalo have been slaughtered in America since 1995 than in the entire preceding century.

 

As one-quarter Native American, I am saddened by this current trend of selling-eating an American icon. We almost wiped the Bison out of existence in the 1800s slaughter. Then we protected them and now we ranch them for “exotic” meat.

 

Do you shudder at the monetization of such native wildlife which are an important part of American history?

 

How do you feel about that? Let us know on TheDogPress facebook page!

TheDogPress.com EST 2002 © Jun 2023 https://www.thedogpress.com/Columns/American-symbol-bison-or-eagle-b23A062.asp

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