“Let's work together, let's get land and bring our relatives home. Once we see that happen there will be a dramatic change. Once they hear that rumble on the land, everybody's hearts will wake up.”
– Melvin Youngbear
As a people, we are experiencing a call to rewild. If you’re listening. What is that call saying, exactly? “It's a calling to our brothers and sisters for our hearts to soften, to wake up and care for Grandmother Earth through celebration, music, dancing, art, expression, empowerment,” says Oriana Moebus, proprietor of 13 Moons Ranch in Carbondale. Her ranch has come to serve as a fertile meeting ground and incubator for visionaries and grassroots activists alike, and for the creativity of a special few, which has resulted in the idea for the film “Rewild Our Soul.” The documentary aims to share awareness, educate us and remind us of the beauty of where we live and where we all come from.
The Oniya Bison Rewilding Project, headed by Tara Sheahan, is located on 37.5 acres outside La Jara, in Conejos County. Oniya, meaning ‘to breathe’ in Lakota language, is the land center that Tara was drawn to, and where she is currently building an adobe house. Eventually, a handful of bison and healers will call Oniya home with her. It is a sister property to 13 Moons Ranch, with more space and remoteness to dig deeper into healing, rewilding, connection, creation and indigenous wisdom. The five individuals who somehow found their way to both properties and to each other are passionate to say the least; they continue to further the movement to rewild our bison - to bring them back to North America in efforts to combat climate change, as well as to help us humans connect back to ourselves. The Rewilding Project’s goal is to have 44 million bison in North America by 2050.
“There’s a sparkle – an excitement in our people – in knowing that the Bison are coming back to the families… You feel that fire in their hearts when they see the Bison on the homeland.” – Melvin Young Bear, Oglala Lakota from Medicine Root (Kyle) South Dakota, featured in “Rewild Our Soul.”
The concept of the documentary film, “Rewild Our Soul,” continues to evolve as the mission grows. At its core, it follows the complexity of the journey of bringing back bison to their native land, Great Turtle Island (aka North America). Along the way, their story connects with indigenous wisdom keepers like Melvin Youngbear, ranchers like Kevin Off and a wide range of communities from Medicine Root in South Dakota to the San Luis Valley of Colorado to the Hopi lands near Shungopavi Village in Arizona.
“Spanning the vast space of the continent's heartland and spilling into the mountains and deserts of the north and west, we learn about nature as a character and also connect with the animals themselves,” says Anders Carlson, filmmaker and visual storyteller. Grounding the film is the land center of Oniya. “We will come to know this place as a character in which we will see growth and evolution as the animals, humans and structures begin to dot the tapestry of the landscape,” says Anders.
This group is one of many joining this call to rewild, the ultimate goal being to restore the grasslands of North America - a problem that bison might be the most palpable solution to. “Bison are keystone species, they really help create and are measures of a healthy habitat and ecosystem,” says Claire de L’Arbre, writer and marketing and business consultant.
Restoring the bison regenerates biodiversity. In the process of restoring the species that once reached approximately 100 million on North American land, the goal is to also rebuild synergy with our planet. To realign human existence in connection with Mother Earth would be to restore a connection that we may so desperately need.
“As the Bison intuitively revitalize our diseased soil with deep plant roots and tall grasses reaching over six feet, Great Turtle Island can recreate the rainforest effect of the Great Plains, thereby acting as a lung for the entire planet, sequestering carbon and mineralizing the dirt,” says Nikki Beinstein, founder and board president of the Board of The Serious Type. The nonprofit’s mission is “to uplift youth [physically, creatively and spiritually] in relationship to nature through the power of authentic expression.”
As one of the producers of the film, The Serious Type has sponsored fundraisers that have benefitted the Oniya Bison Rewilding Project, along with local artists, organizations and Indigenous people. “But most importantly, by supporting an initiative that doesn’t pull resources from the ground or the air or the water as we’ve done for centuries - but rather restores the land in a natural, organic way - we are using the inherent tools granted to us to heal ourselves,” says Nikki.
The Rewilding Group knows that Mother Nature is a big motivator for why the bison are so important - they have identified the need and realization that we need to care for the land that has taken care of us for so long.
While the call to rewild is happening on a local, state, and multi-national level, the effort always starts on the ground in small communities, whose collective efforts will shape the migration corridor. “A migration corridor, on a scientific level, is a route for animals to follow between winter and summer habitats,” says Claire. “But on a spiritual level, it is an intuitive path of freedom and natural state.”
13 Moons Ranch proprietor Oriana sees this migration corridor as a metaphor for our own potential movement as humans. “Bison's movement represents our potential movement. To create space for them would be to create space for ourselves," she says.
Such a beautiful part of this story also comes from all of the individuals and places that are feeling this call to rewild the land through the introduction and remembrance of the bison. There is a lack of divisiveness, and an abundance of admiration and reverence. It’s awe-inspiring. “There's a big goal when it comes to bringing back the bison to the land, and it's not something one person or even one group can do,” says Anders. “That is the really cool part about this story: it doesn't matter what your views are, but there's this energy that just inspires everyone.”
“The call to rewild touches people's hearts in so many ways, giving hope to the future as we reimagine Grandmother Earth as a healthy, vibrant ecosystem and participate in weaving them back together. We know it's time for a film to be made about how people have taken positive action to turn things around for generations to come – to ‘Rewild Our Soul.'”
– Tara Sheahan, founder of Oniya, co-creator Oniya Bison Rewilding Project