Counterclockwise from top left: Terry Zee Lee and her husband, Drake Smith in Drake’s kite building studio. Drake Smith stitches a piece of art into a kite. Photos by Casey Page. Artist Juane Quick-to-See Smith painted a rare, white buffalo called Big Medicine which was made into a kite. Drake Smith holds a kite by Billings artist Angela Babby. Photos Courtesy of Terry Zee Lee.
wildfires to direct the large beasts. In the ensuing chaos, unwitting buffalo plunged to their deaths. Slaughter of the dead and injured animals took place at the cliff base or nearby. By the late 1800s, western expansion of the railroad, open slaughter of massive buffalo herds, U.S. government policies, the small pox epidemic and the establishment of reservations brought an end to the nomadic days of the Plains Indians. However, the landscapes where the buffalo roamed and the sheer cliffs where they met their demise remain, bearing silent witness to a lost era.
No ordinary kites
Juane Quick-to-See Smith wasn’t sure what to think when she heard about The Flying Buffalo Project. She’s accustomed to receiving art commissions for placements in national and international museums and public spaces. With her son and artistic partner, Neal Ambrose Smith, she contemplated the unusual request. “Everyone has a childhood memory of flying a kite,” said Quick-to-See Smith. “The buffalo is a spiritual symbol of hope for Indian tribes far and wide. We soon realized these weren’t ordinary kites.” Their tribe, the Confederated Salish and
Kootenai Nation, honors a rare, white buffalo called “Big Medicine.” Born on Montana’s Moiese National Bison Range in 1933, “Big Medicine” became the centerpiece for the mother-son kite collaboration. Their massive, nine-sided kite required Smith to come up with a new aeronautical kite design to get it airborne. DG House of Bozeman is a member of the Cherokee Tribe of northeast Alabama. Before hearing about the Flying Buffalo Project, she’d visited several buffalo jumps and felt moved by their spiritual and historic significance. House’s kite, “When I Grow Up I’ll be a War Pony,” evokes the wonder that young people and their horses may have felt during the excitement of the hunt. A whimsical pony painted in joyful blues, browns and purples celebrates the magnificent gifts given to ancestral peoples by the buffalo. “I got goose bumps when my kite flew at Madison Buffalo Jump,” House said. “I was transported to a place and time when they lived.” Billings artist, Angela Babby, felt an immediate, intricate connection to the transcendental project when she first spoke to Lee. Babby drew inspiration from the Buffalo Head nickel. She painted a buffalo head and torso on a large piece of rip-stop nylon using techniques she’d learned as an interior painter. Background designs were taken from patterns on historic trade textiles. Her kite is named “Wicakini,” which means resurrection in Babby’s Oglala Lakota language. When airborne, “Wicakani” has a translucent, shimmering quality.
loves you? Keep your pet safe and cool this summer! Summertime fun can also have several risks for your pets. Watch for: • Dehydration • Heat stroke • Seasonal allergies • Sunburn • Burned foot pads • Parasites
Sacred grounds North of the Canadian border near Fort MacLeod, Alberta, is The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. As the largest and oldest documented buffalo jump in North America, it was designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 1981. The Flying Buffalo Project kites flew there in 2013 and again this past June, featuring a special afternoon of dancing and drumming. Head-Smashed-In is named in memory of a young Blackfoot boy who hid in a crevice in the cliff to get an up close view of the buffalo plunging over the cliff. When the hunt ended, his lifeless body was found under a pile of buffalo carcasses. His head was smashed in. Anne Ore, a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks ranger, reports that the turnout for the
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