The meditative act of scraping a buffalo hide activates and re-awakens who we are through both physical and spiritual memories in our hearts and minds. As we do this work, we remember that our ancestors were trained from a young age to do this work and by knowing this we feel connected to them. We do this work together and are committed to seeing it through which bonds us as women. Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway explains, “just like the buffalo we have made it through the dark times of colonization, and now we have to do this hard work to make it through the next parts.” For BigEagle-Kequahtooway, the buffalo feeds her spirit and by doing this work it makes her spirit happy – one lesson is to take actions that feed your spirit.
Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway and Lorne Kequahtooway are artists and leaders behind the Buffalo People Arts Institute (BPAI). Founded in 2015, BPAI became a non-profit organization whose mission is to share traditional Indigenous teachings and knowledge in order to raise social consciousness and create awareness of the power and strength drawn from blood memory and our connection to the buffalo.
In collaboration with NCCIE and Common Weal, BPAI documents the process of and teachings about buffalo hide tanning. This series of stories entitled, Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings, takes you on a journey of exploring connection to the buffalo while also reflecting on the social and historical realities of the buffalo and the people who rely on its survival.