Editor’s Note: Robert Staffanson, 92, is the founder and president of the American Indian Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Bozeman, Montana. Since 1977, the Institute has sponsored the International Elders & Youth Council, held each year in a different location in Indian county. Traditional elders and youth from the Four Directions gather to speak about the welfare of mankind and the world, and to re-energize in the name of cultural survival. The Institute also co-sponsors gatherings and forums with the Traditional Circle of Elders and Youth.


Jose Lucero, of the Tewa Pueblo of Santa Clara in New Mexico, is on the governing council of the Traditional Circle. In June, Lucero and Staffanson visited the Flying D bison ranch in Montana, where the institute had held its 25th anniversary gathering. The Flying D is a former cattle ranch that was acquired by Ted Turner in 1989. Its 119,000 acres are situated between the Gallatin and Madison rivers in strikingly beautiful country bordering the Spanish Peaks Wilderness. Turner turned it into bison range, holding between three- and four-thousand head, as well as substantial numbers of elk, moose, deer, bear and wolves. The following is Staffanson’s account of their experience in a letter to the Traditional Circle, along with Lucero’s translation of his communication with the buffalo.



Jose Lucero’s Buffalo Song

Bob Staffanson

Jose and I went to visit the bison early on a clear, cool beautiful morning. We found the herd on both sides of a country road running through part of the ranch. Countless bison were on surrounding hillsides and up a connecting valley as far as an eye could see. We drove slowly, stopping to see the play of spring calves and the action of an undisturbed herd. At an appropriate place we stopped, left the car and stood motionless, watching the animals. Our presence was accepted. After a time, I returned to sit in the car. Jose sang a Pueblo buffalo song. I watched in awe as at least 30 cows and calves made a semi-circle around him, watching and listening.

Legend says that in the beginning animals and humans could talk together. They still can do that, although discourse is not in words but in language of spirit—direct spirit-to-spirit communication. Science would call it “telepathy,” communication through means other than the senses. Animals and young children have it, but we lose it as we become more sophisticated and dependent upon language. Some, however, retain it. Conditions on the part of human beings are an open, humble and accepting mind and spirit. I saw communication taking place so deep that wild animals came together around Jose.

What took place in our encounter with the bison cannot be explained; there are no words. I can say I returned drained of emotion but with an energized spirit that stays with me. I can also say that at my age the encounter has more meaning than it would have had earlier, and that it reflects on my respect and deep affection for all of you.


Communication with the Buffalo

A message delivered by Jose Lucero

Thank you for accepting a portion of my Pueblo buffalo song, which I sang to you this morning at your paradise home on the Flying D Ranch. The gift of response and responsibility was immediately received upon arriving at the Spanish Twin Peaks campground.

From the Buffalo Nation to the two-legged (human beings):

  1. Our sentinels welcome you at the entrance.
  2. We all welcome you (the majority of us) from all sides. We were not afraid of you, as love is not fear. Love is the spirit of all life.
  3. You saw us nurturing our young and mothers and elders today. They were not going hungry and were cared for. This love and caring must be done for your people. Teach your young people and love them first.
  4. We are not at war, odds, nor are we cynical, envious or greedy, but confirm our spiritual path and occasionally walk together with the Bear Nation as we follow our original instructions given from the Great Spirit or Creator. Your people must talk to one another so we can all co-exist and respect all of creation.
  5. As you were leaving our paradise home our leaders (2) said thank you for your visit. We follow our true protective leaders was we move from one area to another.
  6. Thank our guardian Buffalo Bull Chief (Ted Turner) for providing a safe sanctuary for us presently. We ask him to carry our message further by his means of communication.
  7. Lastly, tell your daughter Maria Helena to never forget her dream about us, that in the future, as life’s changing events come about, we will lead your people to the mountain she dreamed of for safety and continuance of the life of love to those who listen and focus their attention on their surroundings and help others in need at home.
  8. Way da (we love you).



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