Below is Whisper #7 from my latest book, 48 WHISPERS, which is a collection of photographs and personal meditations created across a decade of travel to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the surrounding northern plains.
Traditional Western thought often depicts humanity as nature’s detached and isolated master. From this perspective the natural world surrounds but excludes us. It’s a place we visit and tame. The tribes of the northern plains have long held a different view. Nowhere is this alternative vision better exemplified than with their traditional food source, the buffalo. Humans are the “two-legged” while the buffalo are our “four-legged brothers.” This perspective infers a sense of relationship. For some of the four-legged to give their lives so that the two-legged might live is a sacred gesture.
“The buffalo knows you are coming for him,” my friend Bamm Brewer told me inside his home near Slim Butte. I had recently completed my first buffalo hunt on the Wyoming plains near Pine Ridge. Two days later I brought the meat to the reservation and shared it.
The relationship between the Lakota and the buffalo is a reminder of an ancient indigenous understanding regarding our intimacy with the natural world. This awareness does not mean that we won’t consume. In fact, to survive, we must. What it does mean is that when we consume, we must do so with reverence and a sense of connectivity, not greed.
Remembering that we are all manifestations of the same sacred energy source allows us to recognize that what we do unto nature, we also do unto ourselves. We are one of nature’s countless iterations, and as such, we are irrevocably linked to the fate of the whole.