will the car be our buffalo

Garage sale season will make its debut in only a couple of weeks. For years it was an enjoyable family ritual on a summer Saturday morning for us.

Garage sale season will make its debut in only a couple of weeks.

For years it was an enjoyable family ritual on a summer Saturday morning for us. We would map out a sale maximizing route through Riverdale and downtown from the notices appearing in the Friday paper as we munched our way through a stack of homemade cinnamon toast, another Saturday morning habit.

It would take a particularly exceptional sale

notice or a real need to get us to wander any further afield.

A muskrat hat, a pair of black dress shoes and a particularly comfortable chair serve as visible reminders of successful past garage sailing.

Pride of place must, though, go to a buffalo skull that has adorned our front room in a couple of different homes and apartments over the last two decades.

A long braid of sweet grass crowns our prairie icon now.

We found this trophy at a sale 20 some years ago in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, out on the west flat of that town.

Not a part of the formal sale it had been hung in an obscure corner of an open garage in front of which the no-longer-needed family chattel had been laid out.

For some reason it caught our eye. We approached the owner, who happily let us have it for the princely sum of $2, as I recall.

When our neighbour saw us returning home with the new treasure he told us how as a child during the Second World War he had helped hauled off the mounds of bones littering the fields of his family’s farm near Batoche.

The ground bone apparently had served some wartime need. We now held a relic of a world that had so completely and irrevocably ended just a little over a century and a quarter before.

Whole cultures had evolved around the bison. The Head-Smashed-In buffalo jump site in southwestern Alberta marvelously chronicles the 6,000-year exploitation of this creature by aboriginal peoples.

Estimates range as high as 60 million bison covering the grasslands from northern Mexico to the Peace River country in 1800. Within less than a century, bison had been brought to the edge of extinction.

The people reliant on them found themselves destitute both materially and spiritually.

Age old ways of life collapsed in a generation.

Life would never be the same for either the bison or the prairie peoples dependent on them. But they both have survived. Today we appear to be at the brink of an equally dramatic breaking point with our western consumer lifestyle.

“We have created a death machine capable of destroying the human species and a large part of life on the Earth-Gaia,” declares Leonardo Boff, the renowned Brazilian theologian, in the 2007 Latin American Agenda.

“If we want to survive together, democracy has to be also “biocracy” and “cosmocracy.” “This requires an ecological education so that human beings learn to welcome all beings with respect as co-citizens in a relationship that is just ….”

Will the car be our buffalo?

How are we preparing our families for the changes to come?

This Sunday, Earth Day, as part of our on-going ecological education we are invited to attend a day of family activities hosted by the Yukon Conservation Society at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre.

For the full schedule visit www.yukonconservation.org .

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