Remembering Native American Leader Walking Buffalo

article image
Photo courtesy of Da Na Waq
Death claimed our wise brother Walking Buffalo December 26, 1967, and the entire world mourned. Any fool can be quarrelsome and belligerent. Being half good and half bad takes neither effort nor skill. But being a man of peace requires bravery.

March 20, 1871–a great day in Morley, Alberta. It was
on that day that little Tatanga Mani (Walking Buffalo) was
born. In the years that followed, he was adopted by white
missionary John McDougall, educated in white men’s schools,
returned to the reserve at Morley to advise and guide his
people, and finally in his old age, was asked to act as an
emissary of peace on behalf of the Canadian
Government.

Join our Stoney brothers and hear his words.

“Nobody tries to make the coyotes act like beavers, or
the eagles behave like robins. Christians see themselves as
set apart from the rest of the animal and plant world by
superiority, even as a special creation. Perhaps the
principles of brotherhood which the world urgently needs
come more easily to the Indian.”

Do you know that trees talk? Well, they do. They talk
to each other, and they’ll talk to you, if you will listen.
Trouble is, white people don’t listen. They never listened
to the Indians, and so I don’t suppose they’ll listen to
the other voices in nature. But I have learned a lot from
trees, sometimes about the weather, sometimes about
animals, sometimes about the Great Spirit.

“We were lawless people but we were on pretty good
terms with the Great Spirit, creator and ruler of all. You
whites assumed we were savages. You didn’t understand our
prayers. You didn’t try to understand. When we sang or:
praises to the sun or moon or wind, you said we were
worshipping idols. Without understanding, you condemned us
as lost souls just because our form of worship was
different from yours.

“We saw the Great Spirit’s work in almost everything:
sun, moon, trees, wind, and mountains. Sometimes we
approached him through these things. Was that so bad? I
think we have a true belief in the supreme being, a
stronger faith than that of most of the whites who have
called us pagans. The red savages have always lived closer
to nature than have the white savages. Nature is the book
of that great power which one man calls God and which we
call the Great Spirit. But, what difference does a name
make?

“We had none of your denominations to split us, it
introduce hatreds in the name of religion. We had no
man-made guides to ‘right living’; nature was our guide.
Nature is still Bible, and I’ve just returned after many
days of studying it.

“I’ll tell you what I think. We were on better terms
with the Great Spirit before the white man came than we
were after he confused us by attempting to frighten its
into joining his churches. As devil worshippers, they said
we were heading right down the road to hell. Frighten us?
Who wouldn’t be frightened if they were told they’d burn in
a lake of fire forever if they didn’t accept certain
teachings. The white man meant well. Many of the
missionaries were my friends, but they underestimated the
Indian faith when they used fear to make us change. There
is no such thing as hell to our native religion, and we can
never imagine the Great Spirit choosing to inflict
everlasting torture on man as a punishment.

“As I understand nature’s ruler, he would not restrict
the truth to a few favoured humans, allowing the others to
remain in eternal darkness. If the Great Spirit is prepared
to reveal secrets of importance to people, he will give all
humans in all lands an equal chance of getting that
enlightenment.

“My people have been searching for the truth for
generations, and they continue to find it. All races of
people have conducted such searches. Perhaps that explains
why nearly all the world’s religions have points in common,
like charity forgiveness, and belief in life after
death.

“Crowfoot of the Blackfeet tribe was a thinker, as
everyone agrees, but he never gave up his native religion.
They coaxed him, but he held on to his own beliefs. The old
chief didn’t ridicule your religion and its teachers, but
his own faith brought him enough satisfaction and comfort.
The same could be said about Piapot. For years he was under
pressure to change. He didn’t try to convert white men to
his religion, but he hated bigotry and he had no time for
people who contended that the white man’s religion was
inspired by the Creator but the Indian’s was not. Who do
they suppose inspired the Indian’s religion?”

At 87 years of age in London, England, he said: “It’s
not right raising kids so far from nature. I suppose your
boys and girls have never seen pussy willows, robins
building nests, or grass covered hills. This pavement is
fine for cars, but it is hard medicine for children.

“Hills are always more beautiful than stone buildings,
you know. Living in a city is an artificial existence. Lots
of people hardly ever feel real soil under their feet, see
plants grow except in flower pots, or get far enough beyond
the street lights to catch the enchantment of a night sky
studded with stars. When people live far from scenes of the
Great Spirit’s making, it’s easy for them to forget his
laws.”

In Germany: “I remember the war years. We were led to
hate the Germans. Now I think they are good people. I’d
pitch my tent here anytime. I’ll never hate anybodv again.
Hating hurts me more than it hurts the other fellow.”

To all Indians, he said: “You see, we lost our land and
our freedom, but we don’t have to lose all our Indian ways
and habits. As good Indians, we can make a substantial
contribution to Canadian culture. It may not have occurred
to many white men that red, black, and yellow peoples might
have some good ideas about satisfying the world’s needs.
1’ll never try to justify the foolish fighting and scalping
my people did, but in some ways, we had better ways of
living. At least we kept our fighting to small wars,
whereas the so-called civilized whites go in for big
conflicts.

“There’s a lot of madness in the white man’s
world. We think whites would be better off to slow down and
live closer to the soil and forests and growing things,
instead of galloping around like stampeding buffaloes in
cutback country. If they would take some of our advice,
they might find a contentment which they had not discovered
in their mad rush for money and for the pleasures which
they think it will buy.”

To all White Men, he said: “It’s strange, but in trying
to find solutions to Indian problems, the authorities speak
to nearly everybody but Indians. Many of us could offer
sound advice on this question. But remember, we’re proud of
our race, and we want to continue to be Indians. I was born
with a bronze skin and I like it. Some of my friends were
born white or black or yellow. They were not consulted. But
that’s all right. There are yellow roses, white roses, and
red roses and the fragrance of one is about as nice as
another. I hope my children will live in a world where
people of all colors can sit and work together without
having to conform completely to the majority’s will . . .
You must accept us as Indians who want to be Indians and
who are proud to be Indians.”

Death claimed our wise brother Walking Buffalo December 26, 1967, and
the entire world mourned. Any fool can be quarrelsome and
belligerent. Being half good and half bad takes neither
effort nor skill. But being a man of peace requires
bravery.

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368