Amid increasing volatility during ongoing Dakota Access Pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North and South Dakota, a 28 October 2016 video depicting a herd of buffalo at the scene went viral:
The clip began as an interview between an unidentified protester and an unseen reporter. The interviewer asked general questions about the impasse, and the protester started to respond before noticing a herd of buffalo in the distance:
I feel disrespected. I feel hurt … I feel just hurt that these [police officers] won’t never understand. You know? I try to tell them but.. the only reason we are moving back is because they are armed with batons, tear gas, riot gear, weapons, rubber bullets … that’s what it takes for them to push us back. They carry weapons … because they’re scared.
… This land means everything … look at over there … all the buffalo, look at all those buffalo! Look at all those buffalo there! They’re coming for you guys [riot police]! Be careful! [Unintelligible] animals, they’re very powerful.
The buffalo video was uploaded on 27 October 2016:
As the police are pushing the people back at Standing Rock, the buffalo show up giving the people renewed strength, POWER!!!!
— Thunder Walks About (@notaxiwarrior) October 28, 2016
Some inaccurate images circulated on Twitter alongside the story, photographs that were taken as early as 2012 and are unrelated to the Standing Rock herd:
— True Activist (@TrueActivist) October 28, 2016
Another circulated image of unknown provenance was not as widely shared:
Bison are not necessarily a rare sight at the reservation:
The Standing Rock Sioux have long-range plans to increase the size of their buffalo herd to 1,000. To handle a herd of that size, the tribe would need 20,000 acres of rangeland.
The resurrection of the buffalo is part of a broader return to Lakota and Dakota traditions, Faith says, including language instruction, dances and other cultural and religious practices.
“I think all in all it’s coming full circle back,” he says of the tribes’ embrace of their heritage. “The buffalo are part of the circle of identity.”