Probably never? Well, here’s a reason to celebrate: The bison was recently named the national mammal of the United States by President Obama! The law he signed—the National Bison Legacy Act—doesn’t offer any new protections to bison (also known as buffalo), but it does raise their status to that of an official symbol of America, similar to the bald eagle.
This is a long-overdue and important recognition for the bison, an icon of America and revered symbol of Native Americans that once roamed in the millions but then was nearly decimated by the end of the 1800s. But thanks to early conservationists, including President Teddy Roosevelt, bison bounced back—and today they’re even off the endangered species list! In case you missed it, National Bison Day this year fell on November 5 (the first Saturday of November).
These majestic creatures continually find ways to inspire us. In late October, a beautiful herd suddenly appeared at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, eliciting cheers from the crowd of protesters:
And bison babies, known as “red dogs,” are way too precious:
In case you haven’t seen one yet, a baby bison.. pic.twitter.com/6Zq9cfSWCL
— Animal Life (@MeetAnimals) November 8, 2016
But even though bison are now the U.S. national mammal, they still need our help today. The Buffalo Field Campaign, for one, is working toward achieving endangered species status for the small population of wild bison in Yellowstone, which are the only pure bison left (not interbred with cattle). Their website offers a letter you can sign and send to your local representative or senator. Buffalo Field Campaign also stands with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and continues to lend support.
Another nonprofit, American Prairie Foundation, also works toward bison restoration. The charity, which to date owns more than 300,000 acres and is home to 600 bison, is creating the American Prairie Reserve, the largest natural wildlife reserve in the United States. The goal? To accumulate 3.5 million acres of Montana mixed-grass prairie land. (You read that right: 3.5 million.) It’s actually quite amazing, and you can support them here.
For 15 fun facts about bison (including where the word “buffalo” originated and how to read a bison’s mood from its tail), check out this awesome photo essay from the Interior Department.
Please join me in this meditation I created to honor the world’s bison:
Bison Healing Meditation
Sit in a comfortable position, spine straight, shoulders and arms relaxed. Relax your entire body as you breathe deeply a few times. Imagine there are roots growing down from the base of your spine, deep and wide into the earth. Imagine that the powerful, grounding energy of the earth can flow up these roots into your heart center, giving you stability and peace.
Take 10 breaths, and on each in-breath, feel the earth energy coming up into your heart. On each out-breath, release any emotions, fears or worries you may feel inside you. With each successive breath, feel more and more stillness and stability within you.
Once you have completed the 10 breaths, visualize a bison. See him standing next to you. His feet stand solid on the earth. The sky expands infinitely above his great horns. The bison connects the earth and the sky, all things becoming One. Bison speaks to you, saying, “Fill your heart with strength through peace. You will find abundance through gratitude.” Relax for several minutes, connecting to the wisdom of the bison and the earth/sky energy all around you. Imagine that your heart can expand out of your body, radiating a beautiful state of strength, peace, abundance and gratitude all around you.
Bring to your mind a situation that needs healing. Simply invite that situation into the beautiful light space of your abundant and grateful heart. Imagine that within this heart space, all is perfect and balanced. Feel peace enveloping and healing every aspect of the situation. Let go of your expectations (along with any worries about what needs to be healed) and continue to connect heart to heart with bison for several minutes. Perfect healing exists in this very moment! When you are ready, thank the bison for his wisdom and support. Set your intention to finish, take a nice deep breath and slowly open your eyes.