Our National Mammal

Everyone loves the story of a comeback. Everyone loves when wrongs are righted. That’s why naming the American bison as our national mammal, equal in status to the bald eagle as our national emblem, is the best kind of story because it embodies both virtues – and it all happened with the stroke of a pen.

On May 9, 2016, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law, and justice was at last rendered for one of the most egregious chapters in our history, the near annihilation of a magnificent and vital creature.

As we think of the bison rumbling across the Great Plains by the millions, an unstoppable tide of hide and muscle that provided sustenance for indigenous people living on the land, and how that mighty sea was drained to a mere trickle because of wantonness, ignorance, greed and political motives – as we ponder our own human proclivity to take more than our share from the earth and from each other, it should stir us to live as better stewards of the resources God has given us.

While the bison will never again roam in the great, wild herds of old, how gratifying it is to see the dedicated efforts of both government and the private sector to make amends. These measures to protect and improve both the beast and the land are thundering signs that remorse is being transformed into restoration as the bison rebounds in national parks and on private ranches and Indian nations.

Revering the American bison as our national mammal is a declaration of justice and respect that brings to mind the luminous words of Sitting Bull: “Every seed is awakened and so is all animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our animal neighbors the same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land.”

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