As I shared the bloody, tragic details of killing a bison cow, my partner’s eyes started to well with tears.
The look on her face was one of sadness and empathy for such a majestic animal, which has such a long history feeding native American tribes that call Texas home.
The Comanche, Tonkawa, and others would travel through the plains and Texas hill country to search for their favorite food.
In the traditions of many native American tribes, the bison was incredibly important. The Lakota called the buffalo tatanka and maintained strong spiritual ties with the animal.
When the Spanish introduced horses back into north America and tribes across the plains used them, hunting bison became even more easy and thus important for the survival of the tribes.
Much like the plains tribes across North America, in 2018 I sought the bison as a food source that would sustain me for many months.
Stemming from a commitment made almost a year prior, I do not purchase meat from the grocery store to cook in my home.
Thus to adequately supply myself, hunting is the way I bring meat to the table.
My partner’s experience, tearing when she heard the story of my buffalo hunt, was not unique to her.
Driving home for 3 hours with the bison in coolers, I listened to a song from Nahko Bear…
Alice, Alice, I’m well aware…
The song, much like any song by Nahko, allowed me to feel something deeper than I could on my own. Tears streamed down my face as I thought of her — Alice, my first bison kill.
I thought of the first arrow that punctured her lung and sent her reeling. I thought of the arrow that came after that, which her ribs powerfully rejected.
I thought about deciding to have my hunting partner end the suffering by shooting her as I watched her limping and trying to escape.
After we removed all the meat and skin, there was very little left of Alice’s body. What did remain was left as an offering for other creatures.
Upon finishing, I brought the last of the tobacco given to me by an elder, made an offering to the land, said my prayers, and left.
Taking the life of any creature can be a powerful experience especially when it is done to bring food back to sustain oneself.
Food comes from the Earth. Life eats life. These are pieces of wisdom we have known for generations.
A Labor of Love
Beyond prayers and offerings, a way to honor Alice or any animal that I kill is to use as much of the animal as possible and do the work myself.
For 10 hours, I stripped meat, ground it into burger, and vacuum sealed food for months. With no breaks, I managed to only finish small muscles on her back and thighs.
For dinner, I invited friends over to share in the bounty as we consumed tacos made from her tongue and grilled heart, both of which were brining and marinating all day.
The first bite of tongue was one of the best tacos I have ever consumed in my life.
It was well cooked, tender, and tasty, but so much more meaningful because I had killed, butchered, processed, and cooked the tongue myself in less than 24 hours.
Such an appreciation of our food is rare (even for me) and only possible when we take responsibility for putting the meat on the table.
I have a long way yet to go in this journey of becoming closer to the food that I eat, but this is one meaningful step on that path.