Where the Buffalo Roam?

“When our great-great-grandparents were toddlers, stamping one wobbly foot in front of the other, three continental time zones reverberated with millions upon millions of pounding hooves from Nevada to New York, Montana to Mexico. No life was untouched by the American bison (Bison bison): our hoofed ancestors were the original American engineers…

Until we exterminated 99.999997% of them.”

Pfeiffer Flyway Spr18 ScreenshotSo begins my latest essay in the Spring 2018 issue of Flyway: the story of how we killed, and continue to kill off, our iconic, irreplaceable relative: the American Bison.

I feel passionate about the loss, not only because of the deep spiritual connections between bison and First Nations, but also because of the essential ecological roles that can only by filled by bison.

Only one non-profit has devoted twenty years to saving the bison: The Buffalo Field Campaign. If you don’t yet know about BFC, I encourage you to get to know them, donate to their wish list, or host one of their Road Show events.

And I encourage you to spend the time reading the essay, that I spent several years researching and writing: I guarantee you will learn things you never knew before – including what a bison-bellow sounds like. If you are moved by my words, please share them, and educate others. There is still a change to turn things around.

 

 

Humanity: the new edition

Humanity by Paloma Press 2018

Forthcoming this summer: HUMANITY – an anthology featuring practitioners/students in the fields of environmental science, public policy, decolonization and multicultural studies, poetry, anthropology, medicine, music, theology, and history on their observations and vision of the human condition.

My piece “Until We Have Loved,” an essay about trying to save a tiny brown bat that won a national contest, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and singled out as one of the best essays in Selected Memories. the 2017 anthology by Hippocampus, is now being included in this new collection by Paloma Press.

“We believe in the power of the literary arts, how it can create empathy, bridge divides, change the world. We are committed to publishing works that honor the writer and elevate the reader. To this end, we strive to publish the work of authors who support a particular charity (e.g., organizations that take direct action in the areas of animal welfare, medical research, environmental protection, arts advocacy, or community development).” – Paloma Press editors

This announcement comes on the heels of emails from three other literary journals announcing the inclusion of four of my hard-worked pieces in forthcoming editions (yes, the world of writing also experiences “feasts or famines”); AND the recent publication of three new books by my emergent press, Beauty and Love Publishing.

All this = a resounding affirmation that the Written Word is Very Much Alive. (Hallelujah, put the smartphone down and pick that book back up!!)

A story of love and loss from Indonesia

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“A filthy drinking glass, used toothbrush, and crumpled tube of toothpaste lay on top of a simple cement capstone, their ordinariness heartrendingly poignant. I lit candles I had tucked into my pack earlier that morning, said a prayer, and remained by the graveside for several minutes longer, swatting mosquitos, racking my brain, trying to understand her choices.

How does a mother allow her child to disintegrate before her eyes?”

This excerpt, from my recently published essay “Photocopy” in the Spring 2018 issue of Sky Island Journal embodies one of the hardest stories I have ever tried to tell.

The true-to-life story comes from the years I lived, on-and-off, with my adopted tribe, the Tado. Like most extended families, ours is a complicated relationship, with a tremendous range of emotions that flame and flex and flame again.

When I first began workshopping this story in 2008 at the Grub Street Writing Center in Boston, it proved one of the more difficult pieces for me to write, and equally difficult for others to read. Ten years later, I’ve finally found the words, and a home, for an experience that continues to haunt me, with no easy answers. Writing and re-writing this story has deepened my empathy, and my conviction that if we remain silent about unpalatable truths, how can we ever grow, both as individuals and as a people?

Sky Island Journal is one of those amazing literary journals that choses to make all of its content FREE and open access: you can click through each of their issues to date, and download poetry, flash fiction, and creative non-fiction works in bite-size pieces (<1000 words) from throughout the United States and the world.

Sky Island Journal_Issue 4_CoverIssue #4 contains a tremendous diversity of poetry and prose to explore. My favorite poems include “Flying Fox” by Alison Thompson (Australia) and  “Joan of Arc Goes to the Gym” by Jarred Thompson (South Africa).

I encourage folks to spend some time reading and digesting the material, and sharing the pieces that most intrigued or moved you with someone else: let’s keep the power of the written word alive, and the conversation going.

Beauty & Love Publishing debut!

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A celebration of traditional culture.

Each book features a different aspect of biocultural diversity: Waterdog & the Love Charm, a delightfully mischievous tale told by Dry Creek Pomo Elizabeth “Belle” Lozinto Cordova Dollar (and edited by her great-niece Sherri Smith-Ferri) illustrates the close ties between nature and culture.

In Pomo Cradle Baskets: An Introduction, Redwood Valley Pomo master weaver Corine Pearce describes the history, wild-crafting, distinct styles and contemporary use of traditional cradle baskets. The Beadwork of Stewart Wilburn commemorates fifty years of stunning artistry by a renowned Wailaki/Tolowa/Pomo/Wintu beader whose work honors and represents the people and wildlife of Northern California.

Buy the books on the Beauty & Love Publishing website.

Author events can be scheduled by contacting the publisher, Dr. Jeanine Pfeiffer at www.beautyandlove.org

300 more trees planted…

…this month by my extended family in Tado, eastern Indonesia, to help achieve my annual goal of carbon-neutral living while conserving biocultural diversity.

Why 300 trees? What types of trees? And why Tado?

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Three hundred trees represent the number of actively growing woody plants I need to plant to offset the tonnage of carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas) emitted by my lifestyle every six months. The trees planted are culturally significant, locally native species – mango and jackfruit – used for traditional foods and medicines.

Tado is the name of the indigenous clan who claim me as family, ever since I showed up on their doorstep as an aspiring PhD student in 1997. We began living and working together in 1999, collaboratively researching, documenting, and conserving Tado ancestral lifeways. We  built a community research center and developed a community-based ecotourism program, both of which are going strong almost twenty years later (!!).

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My younger brother Yeremias Uril (Jeremy), pictured above) chose species that could be hand-grown from locally collected seeds and stakes, would thrive even under low rainfall conditions, and could re-vegetate a denuded hillside. Yeremias envisions these trees helping to restore local watersheds and provide ethnobotanical teaching moments for tourists hiking in the area.

Yeremias has even proffered a special “Trekking + Tree Planting” ecotourism package for visitors who want to leave an environmentally-friendly legacy while visiting Tado.

Big Sister (a.k.a. Dr. Pfeiffer) is SO proud!

 

 

We need to stop killing bison

This Winter, like all the winters going back for decades, our US Forest Service and our National Parks Service are coordinating the slaughter of American Bison on public lands.

Plains Tribes have been asking to receive the “excess” Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Park bison for many years, and they are rarely – if ever – successful.

My friend Mike Mease of the Buffalo Field Campaign has devoted his life to saving these buffalo, and has inspired and led hundreds of other volunteers to join him.

We can stop the killings. We have better options. Read more…

Pfeiffer 18Jan2018 HCN

 

 

New Series of Heroic His/Her-stories

In increasingly uncertain times, we need heroes (and heroines) more than ever. My definition of a hero is someone who enriches our world with grace and extraordinary skill, overcoming adversities to pursue their vision.

This January I’m launching a new initiative to produce a series of bio-pics of heroes/heroines within my circle of beloveds. The people to be featured include master craftspeople keeping Native traditions alive, environmental scientists monitoring lake waters for toxins, and basketry instructors weaving together environmental protection with cultural revitalization. The bio-pics will be published as digital and print books and short YouTube videos on my Dr. Pfeiffer channel.

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A bio-pic produced as a Shutterfly and eBook years ago on master beadworker Stewart Wilburn will be updated; YouTube videos on work to address vanishing species and toxic algal blooms in Clear Lake will be expanded and deepened.

Initial funding comes from faculty development grants at San José State University to support student collaborations with Northern California tribes.

Stay tuned! If this takes off, it might be time to launch one of those GoFundMe sites…