Amazonia Foundation

Posts Tagged ‘repatriation’

GOING HOME – The Documentary

The Catalina Island Conservancy and the Amazonia Foundation’s joint project to document the Buffalo Repatriation were realized in the documentary film directed by Michael Stuart Ani, Going Home. It is featured at the Catalina Island’s Greeting Center and is viewed by over a million people a year.



Buffalo Repatriation: From Catalina to the Lakota

December 2004, a joint effort between the Catalina Island Conservancy, California’s Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the Amazonia Foundation has repatriated 98 buffalo to the Brule, Lakota Sioux Rosebud tribe of South Dakota. Many members of the tribe are descendants of Indian heroes such as Crazy Horse, Crow Dog, Spotted Tail, He Dog and Swift Bear. The Lakota received these Catalina Island buffalo of unusually short stature in the tradition of their own “Give Away, gift giving ceremony. Do to the buffalo’s diminutive size there were some traditional Lakota, such as Leonard Crow Dog that called them Te-hen-chi-la; the Little Buffalo of the Sioux Seven Generations prophecy.

The first spring after the repatriation the herd broke lose of their fences and disappeared. They were found two days later heading toward the sacred Black Hills. After more then a hundred years the tiny herd instinctually rediscovered the bare remains of the same yearly route their ancestors had taken for centuries. The Lakota people refer to this route that now appears much like a dried riverbed as the Hoop of Life.

Since 1923, these Little Buffalo have been roaming free on California’s Catalina Island. Famed writer/director Zane Grey brought them to the Island, to film the movie Vanishing Americans. It was at a time when there were very few buffalo left in America. By 1903, 25 wild buffalos survived the original herds of over a hundred million. The Little Buffalo are believed to be direct descendants of this Yellowstone herd.

The book and movie Vanishing Americans were the first, published Hollywood outcries against the genocide of the American Indian people. In the final edit, the buffalo scenes were cut from the movie and the tiny herd was left behind. The Wrigley family, famous for their chewing gum, baseball stadium, and owning most of the island, adopted them. The family created the Catalina Island Conservancy, to protect the wildlife, flora and sea life of the island. Their beloved buffalo are an introduced species that was allowed to stay.

Through extensive scientific research, the Catalina Island Conservancy’s president, Ann Muscat concluded that the size of the herd had grown too big for both the Island and the animal’s health. Approximately 150 buffalo were left to continue roaming free on the Island and reproduce annually. This is the size of a herd that the Island can support.

The Morongo Band of California Mission Indians graciously financed the repatriation. Their 2004 Tribal Chairman, Maurice Lyons, represented them at the event.

REPATRIATION DAY

Conservancy Chief Communications Officer, Leslie Baer and the Amazonia Foundation’s Michael Stuart Ani coordinated the event. Along with representatives of the Morongo, Tungva and Lakota, many tribes came to participate in the ceremony. It became a major ceremony for Indian people and event for the media. Almost all the major news services in the country, including international CNN and UPS covered the story.

The buffalo traveled across country in two trailers, escorted by Lenny Altherr and Michael Stuart Ani, representing the Catalina Island Conservancy, and the Amazonia Foundation. 67 million viewers worldwide watch the news coverage. The snows of December held tight until the buffalo arrived at their home, back on the Northern Plains. Within a year they each gained over three hundred pounds and a new, thicker fur coat.