Discover Native Yellowstone:
Its all Indian Country - culture, history and wildlife on a three-day getaway
The Place of the Yellow Rock Water. Indians called it home over 10,000 years before the Pilgrims anchored at Cape Cod and sought to find their own. Since the days of Bridger and Moran, through Yellowstone becoming the first and now oldest national park in the world, the absence of a Native presence in Yellowstone has been explained by the myth that Indians feared this vast, pine-robed plateau that is punctuated by thermal wonders from lakeshore to river course.
Supposedly the geysers engendered such apprehension among tribal people that they would do all they could to avoid this bountiful landscape. The Cheyenne, Kiowa, Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfeet, Nez Perce, and the most recent arrivals, the Crow, know a different story. Within these archives from ancestral memory is found a common theme – the sacred nature of the land named for the Yellow Rock Water and the connection to this place, an ancient compact between the two-legged and four and the earth that sustains, but which there (as yet) is still unmade.
From the earliest experience it was gleaned that the earth in the Place of Yellow Rock Water was uneasy with itself and, that there, creation was neither finished nor content. To be close to creation is to be upon the sacred. There was not fear but respect and intuition; the 600-square mile Yellowstone caldera is far from resting easy.
Day 1 - By Act of Congress on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park was “dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” But tribal people whom had never seen Yellowstone had already been benefiting from one of its many gifts for thousands of years. For example, the Hopewellians, the so-called “Mound Builders,” residing 1,500 miles to the east, were utilizing Yellowstone obsidian by 500 B.C. The answers to how and why can be found in Cheyenne explanations for the creation of Obsidian Cliff
From obsidian we move to another precious reserve, and discover where and how the Cheyenne gathered the source of a sacred paint, and discuss how it was made and the sacred process from earth to paint to designs that imbue body and object alike with power on the spiritual matrix.
Throughout the day, you will be hearing explanations of how the four-legged are sacred and how they interact in traditional culture with the two-legged and winged of the air.
Day 2 - The Kiowa have an ancient connection to Yellowstone and we go to the origin of that bond - The Dragon's Mouth, the place of Creation - before discussing the relationship between the buffalo and the Kiowa, and the significance of the buffalo, the sacred provider of physical and spiritual sustenance in many cultures. Sacred bundles and explanations related to the buffalo embody the well-being of not only the Kiowa, but also the Lakota, Cheyenne, and other tribal people, and this inter-relationship and inter-connection is explored through traditional narratives that speak of the days when the human beings and the buffalo were as one, and how the buffalo is an ancient relative.
The wolf taught many to hunt, and would call others to share the bounty, and we also learn of that tradition – of the wolf as a teacher, and how the wolf is revered in Cheyenne and other Plains cultures, to the extent that the scouts of the people, those who guide, those who bring warnings and messages, are referred to as “wolves.”
Day 3 - To journey into Yellowstone is to enter the realm of the Great Bear – as the Blackfeet say, the Real Bear – the grizzly, and we will learn of the physical and spiritual significance of the bear to tribal people who shared this land with the bear. A great healer, a potent symbol of power, a guardian, and a grandfather who can instill fear, the grizzly is all of these.
Through traditional stories and explanations, and by actually entering the grizzly bears’ domain, we learn of the power and gifts the grizzly brings to the people, and the bear’s prominence in art and symbolism.
For those who want to find it, the evidence exists that tribes had a unique relationship with the treasures in the land of Yellow Rock Water millennia before European contact. But it is tribal memory that retains the authentic – the voices, the history, and the cultural perspectives – so journey with us and listen for the words and silences, the ancient songs of the two-legged and four, and see Yellowstone, a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site, as you will have never seen it before.
Where: Yellowstone National Park
When: May - Oct. Call +307 699 6015 for availability
Tribes: 26 tribes call Yellowstone their ancestral land including Lakota, Blackfeet, Crow, Shoshone
Duration: 3 Day Getaway
Tour Fee: $1695 (ex.accommodations/ground transport)
NOTE: For a customized, all-inclusive package please call to discuss your preferences and pricing.
Meeting point: Usually Cody, WY, but Jackson,WY and Bozeman, MT are also possible.
Please note: Your tour fee covers guiding only. Up to four people may travel on this tour for the base price, additional adult travelers beyond 4 pay a supplement of $225 per person.
8 or more people is considered a group, and special group pricing applies - please call for information.
Dated small group Discover Tours are also available (accommodation and ground travel inclusive.)