"This ancient animal has survived everything nature could throw at it," intones the narrator of The Great Buffalo Saga, the 1985 NFB film below. Saskatchewan has a long history with the bison, a history worth remembering and (mostly) celebrating. From Chiefs Sweet Grass and Big Bear's warnings at the Treaty Six negotiations to the work of Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard, the bison has been there when we've been at our best. The bison was absolutely essential (pdf) to the Cree, Nakota, Nakawe, Blackfoot and Dene people who were here before Europeans. At various points since Confederation, there has been talk of amalgamating Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba into one super-province called Buffalo.
But y'know what? All that's just too old-fashioned for those trail-blazing hipsters (Leader-Post)who booked MC Hammer as the big headliner at Regina's summer fair. Pat Fiacco, that long-haired hippie of a mayor, agrees, telling CJME "I think the organizer's [sic] are simply looking at continuing to make sure attendance is up and provide a brand that is more relfective [sic] of the current exhibition as to what it was 20 years ago."
Which is interesting, because it was nearly 20 years ago that anyone gave a non-ironic rat's ass about MC Hammer. Meanwhile, the Buffalo, or Bison has only seen its cultural currency rise over the years. First of all, the return of the bison to the Canadian Plains is a great parallel for the resurgence of First Nations cultures in Saskatchewan. Both of them survivors against terrible odds. Both of them representing great hopes for the future of Regina and Saskatchewan. And then, hellz yeah, there's rock & roll.
Righteous Vancouver metal act Bison B.C. (July 15 at the Exchange) are hardly the ones clued in to the awesomeness of the most majestic (and delicious!) of all the beasts. Toronto's rad-gnarly psych-rock combo Quest For Fire's best song is "Bison Eyes". Regina-born Daniel Brodie created the wondrous and evocative cover art seen at left for Roger Dean Young & the Tin Cup's sublime 2007 album Threshold. Australian Sally Seltmann, who co-wrote Feist's big hit "1-2-3-4" records her own tunes as New Buffalo. And let's not forget Neneh Cherry's (way better than "U Can't Touch This") 1988 hit "Buffalo Stance".
Frankly, the problem isn't the name, it's the stewards of the name. Since the organizers of the fair formerly known as Buffalo Days are so eager to relinquish the Bison Power, why not let someone else use it? The Regina Folk Festival has clearly had designs on becoming more of a pop festival for some time, a la Sled Island, so why not a name change? Or how about this: Why not set up a grand celebration of South Saskatchewan First Nations culture in Victoria for, let's say, a week every summer, call that Buffalo Days?