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Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Society is a non-profit organization named after our grandfather, Mila Yatan Pika Pte, Knife Chief.  This grass roots organization is committed to caring for the members of the buffalo nation as relatives and learning from them.

Knife Chief Nation is a 501c3 non profit organization and contributions are tax deductible.  Our EIN # is 82-3278437. 

Reuniting with a Relative

Highlighting the work of Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye (Knife Chief Buffalo Society) 

 

In the early 2000s, the Iron Cloud family wanted to reconnect with the buffalo as relatives. They founded Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye (Knife Chief Buffalo Society), a registered 501c3 Non-profit,  to do just that. The Board of Directors of Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye understand the buffalo’s significance to Lakota lifeways, and the importance of the buffalo’s return. The Lakota people, like other indigenous tribes, have suffered from centuries of genocide and intergenerational trauma. For the Board of Directors, returning the buffalo to the prairie of Pine Ridge serves as a symbol of perseverance, dedication, and commitment to empowering Lakota people to reconnect with their traditions, themselves, each other, and the land after decades of being forced apart. 

 

“We take care of these buffalo because they are healing,” said Rick Two Dogs, a founding member, board member, and spiritual advisor of  Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye. “Not only do they give their flesh for sustenance, but they also help sustain us spiritually. We, the Lakota, have lived for thousands of years with the buffalo, and they sustained up for all these times until recently.” 

 

How does a nation rebuild after such historical devastation and separation from their relatives while also facing contemporary challenges? For Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye, the first step to healing is reuniting with the buffalo--a teacher, a healer, and a relative. 


 
The Returning of a Relative

 

Currently, Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye provides a home for a herd of anywhere from 18 - 67 buffalo. The return of the buffalo to the prairies reconnects the Lakota community to their traditions, ceremonies, and lifeways. While the herd serves also as a source of sustenance for the community, the foundation of Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye work is to restore a spiritual and traditional relationship with the buffalo so that future generations have a connection to sacred Lakota ceremonies and to the land. 

 

“Our work is not a project. A project has a beginning and an end. But the Buffalo Nation goes back in time before our people,” said Ethleen Iron Cloud-Two Dogs, a board member of Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye. “The Lakota relationship with the buffalo will never end.”


 

After the strategic and forced exterminations of the buffalo from the prairies by the U.S government, fur traders, pioneers, trappers, gold miners, the Lakota people lost a centerpiece of their lifeways. As colonization worked to destroy the Lakota people and their society, it also decimated the buffalo society. These atrocities were carried out to serve the tie between the Lakota and the buffalo and ultimately deprive Lakota peoples of their main food source. 

 

For the Lakota, the buffalo play a role in many ceremonies, including the Sundance, The Wicasa Ihuni (Manhood Ceremony), and Isnati Awicalowanpi (“They Sing for Her that Lives Alone”—Womanhood Ceremony). To lose a connection with buffalo is akin to losing a relative and a fundamental part of Lakota identity. 


 

Restoring Community 

 

Within Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye’s work, the herd serves as a center for restoring their community’s identity and culture. In response to an increase in suicides on Pine Ridge in 2014, the Board of Directors knew it was time to expand Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye’s efforts with the herd to also offering traditional rites of passage ceremonies for girls and boys; and implementing children/youth healing camps that include language and traditional cultural teachings. 

 

“Buffalo protect their young and vulnerable at all costs, they put the calves in the middle of the herd when faced with a threat,” said Ethleen. “That’s what we're working to do for our young people and the vulnerable ones.” 

 

Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye Teca Woapiye Wicoti (Healing Camps for Youth) takes place in the summer months. The purpose of the camps is to engage young relatives ages 0-17, who have experienced trauma, loss, and/or grief in a community where they can process their experiences through traditional healing practices. Holding ceremonies for young people with the buffalo at the center has made an enormous impact.  95% of young boys who attended the Boys Healing Camp said the camp mattered because they healed, learned Lakota ways and values, received a Lakota name, and learned to set up a tipi. 


 

Current Goals and Needs 

 

As the Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye grows through the efforts of the Iron Cloud Family, they are hoping to expand their land base so they can provide a home to more buffalo relatives.

As with any non-profit, fundraising is currently one of the organizations' priorities--maintaining a ranch and providing a home for a buffalo herd requires a lot of hard work, fencing, and equipment. 

 

Recently, the organization has received an offer of donated farm equipment that will allow them to sustainably and efficiently tend to the buffalo pasture. Because the donated equipment will need to be shipped from California to Porcupine, South Dakota, the Board of Directors is working to raise the funds needed for transportation. 

 

“We’ve just recently become a non-profit, even though we’ve been operating for years. Everyone in our family has a full plate, but we’re trying to take care of the buffalo and restore our lifeways,” said Ed Iron Cloud, lead caretaker of the herd. “Our pasture is around 900 acres. The work is ongoing and we’re exploring different ways to raise money to expand a home for the buffalo relatives.”

 

The Board of Directors and their work to establish and grow Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye comes from a sense of responsibility to care for buffalo relatives, in the same way, they would care for their human relatives.  They understand the importance of having reverence and spiritual connection with the land and how this connection can help restore not only their communities' traditions but help others who, too, are yearning to learn how to have a balanced, healthy, symbiotic relationship with the land and animals around them. 


 

To support Mila Yatan Pika Pte Oyate Okolakiciye, please click here to make a donation.

Village Earth Inc. is Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Society Fiscal Sponsor

Knife Chief Buffalo Nation

605-455-1865

605-899-9336

Mail Address:

P.O. Box 464

Porcupine SD United States 57772

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