Tatanka 2018 © Oriana Gatta / Fiber Art / 6″ (15 cm) x 9.5″ (24 cm) x 4.5″ (11.5 cm)

This piece was commissioned by scholar, Howard University professor, and friend Shawna M. Morgan. Based on research I did for this project, I learned that the difference between a bison and a buffalo is that bison are native to North America and parts of Europe, and buffalo are native to south Asia and Africa. Also, physically, bison have shoulder humps, and buffalo do not.

My ignorance, I think, results in no small part from pop culture references to the mythos of the American West that (mis)use buffalo imagery. Noteworthy examples include the line, “Where the buffalo roam,” from classic American western folk song “Home on the Range;” American Gods’s Buffalo Man, and the buffalo symbolism in Westworld season 2. Of course, as colonizer language, both “bison” and “buffalo” post-date indigenous terms like the Lakota word, “tatanka,” which literally means something like “he who owns us.”