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Current Edition Tier: Bronze
Tatanka is the name given to the American Bison by both Sioux and Lakota peoples – a name popularized by the movie Dances with Wolves. The sacred symbol of the bison is one of self-sacrifice – to give until there is nothing left. Not only did the Native Americans honor the buffalo by being extremely resourceful with all aspects of its body, but the spirit of the buffalo inspired something greater in the people – the honor of self-sacrifice and giving. This spirit is beautifully articulated in a passage by Lakota teacher John Fire Lame Deer below:
The buffalo gave us everything we needed. Without it we were nothing. Our tipis were made of his skin. His hide was our bed, our blanket, our winter coat. It was our drum, throbbing through the night, alive, holy. Out of his skin we made our water bags. His flesh strengthened us, became flesh of our flesh. Not the smallest part of it was wasted. His stomach, a red-hot stone dropped into it, became our soup kettle. His horns were our spoons, the bones our knives, our women’s awls and needles. Out of his sinews we made our bowstrings and thread. His ribs were fashioned into sleds for our children, his hoofs became rattles. His mighty skull, with the pipe leaning against it, was our sacred altar. The name of the greatest of all Sioux was Tatanka Iyotake—Sitting Bull. When you killed off the buffalo you also killed the Indian—the real, natural, “wild” Indian.