A sign of an entrenched native prairie animal icon, is a hulking, ugly bison stamped into Alberta handmade soap. Not that I’ve seen a salmon icon on Pacific coast local soap –yet. Pacific coastal soapmakers might find dolphins and whales more romantic iconography for beauty soap products.
Not Exactly Cuddly
While the bison isn’t cuddly nor evokes an awestruck “wow” like the soaring bald eagle, the bison’s klutzy but vaguely threatening, massive brown bulk just makes you pause a tad. It’s a creature you tend to learn tidbits of its cultural influence on the Plain Indians for several thousand years and now, on local art and local branding.
If the bison wasn’t around, eventually, this prairie animal icon would be missed. For most locals and tourists, it’s finding bison redemption in its clumsy furriness.
I’ve already blogged earlier about bison as local prairies’ signature food where it is in farmed in abundance with highest quality because of its foraging on dry, grassy rangeland.
But unlike horses, a domesticated animal, loved by many in the Canadian prairies, bison is always wild and dangerous, even if farmed. It can even run up to 45-55 km. per hr. Bison have poor eyesight like cattle (fact from Jack, the ex-farmer), but have a good sense of smell.
Bison or buffalo (not be confused with water buffalo), always tends to be in art, as solo against Man or just standing around in a herd or solo munching on grass. Man is always far away or there’s a fence or natural barrier between Man and bison. You never see any art depictions of anyone petting or riding a bison.
No one, not even the Plains Indians, were dumb enough to do such dangerous thing.
It takes time to warm up to bison art. Bison pulchritude is a hard thing to define. Most artists depict the headshot, a hulking side view or occasionally
slightly romanticized drawings of Indians chasing a few frightened bison galloping away. Only recently I was shown a herd of buffalo sculptures not far from home. It wasn’t noticeable to me since I was always whizzing along, on the look-out for cars whizzing by me.
All these images are good for the solid bison that lumbers mysteriously across our land. I’m not even sure what type of noises bison make. Maybe one day I’ll hear it from these glowering but solid creatures..
More Interesting Reading
Chong, J. Roaming Around for Bison: Distinctly North American Lean and Maybe Gourmet. In Cycle Write. Dec. 17, 2010.