Some years ago, I adopted a philosophy of Buffalo Culture in both life and work. Not all Cherokee migrated with the bison like the Plains Indians or the prehistoric Spiro cultures, but the American buffalo is a vital symbol of this land and its indigenous origins. It is a part of Cherokee and Basque history and the land of the West – lineal descents which root me to my own sense of place, wherever I go.
When I explore my ancestry, I find the Futrell's and the Earp's and the Lowe's – even the Basque with their caves of horses, birds, and bison – running through my map like rivers and veins. It was there I found the buffalo, just as they had hemmed my childhood and the highways I now traveled like stitches in an old, precious book I'd inherited. In historic annals, Buffalo Culture describes an indigenous lifestyle of watching the horizons for signs of bison, migrating with them as a source of nourishment, and wasting nothing of their abundance – down to the bladder and bone. I began to implement these lessons into my own life and work. But it's a narrative with something to offer us all.
Watch your horizons, pursue the work that nourishes you and others, and find your abundance. Follow your buffalo.
One day, my mother and I drove down the highway to a bison farm. I had hoped to see one along the fence, but only a few were in sight and they were faint specks in the distance. It was cold and rainy, so we nearly turned back. But I decided to brave the obscure dirt road and two zealous dogs all the way down to the ranch house; and as serendipity would have it, I came upon a woman with a long owl-grey braid hanging down her back. After sharing my personal story and my affinity for the American buffalo, I was invited to hop in the ranch truck and go on a personal tour of the place: Instead of seeing just one, I saw herds of these magnificent creatures, in field after field. The truck bounced along, we opened and closed gates, taking unmarked roads through the grass till we found more buffalo. I learned more that day than I'd ever known about them before, and took several film shots that late afternoon; but it was this lone buffalo standing his ground that caught my eye above the rest. He was the unexpected one, the maverick, the last one of the day. This is the fellow I leave on my wall so that I remember this: It's always worth more than we know to pursue our vision, because often serendipity will meet us there.