Spiritual Home


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The buffalo (more correctly, taxonomically speaking, the American bison) was a key part of the Great Plains life of the Lakota Sioux. The Lakota believe that all things contained spirit, not only animals, but also rocks. It is difficult for us to understand how the Lakota could kill the buffalo in the light of this belief but they saw it as an unavoidable evil in order for them to eat and live, which had to be faced, not avoided. The spirit of a slain animal still had to be respected, as when the animal was alive: there were ceremonies to reflect this in Lakota lore. The Lakota chased buffalo ruthlessly, including over ravines (‘pis’kuns’) to kill them more easily. My painting is in part a representation of that. I did not intend to sanitize the Native American ways. However, the US not only killed the buffalo on an industrial scale, due to rifle, railroad, and profit from the mechanisation of tanning methods, but also as sport (as recorded by Custer himself) and ultimately as part of a policy to weaken and destroy a key support of the Native American way of life. The Spiritual Home also represents the place where the buffalo spirit lived on after death, and also reflects the buffalo’s place in the landscape.