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 “Native peoples ate (eat) meat off the Buffalo bone.

Europeans ate (eat) lamb chops off the Buffalo Bone china.”

Duke Redbird, Shawnee Professor, Poet, Artist, and Writer.

Buffalo Running 1883 Eadweard Muybridge


Muybridge often travelled back to England, and on March 13, 1882 he lectured at the Royal Institution in London in front of a sell out audience that included members of the Royal Family, notably the future King Edward VII. He displayed his photographs on screen and described the motion picture via his zoopraxiscope.


At the University of Pennsylvania and the local zoo Muybridge used banks of cameras to photograph people and animals to study their movement. The models, were photographed in a variety of undertakings, ranging from boxing, to walking down stairs, to throwing water over one another and carrying buckets of water. Between 1883 and 1886 he made a total of 100,000 images, working under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania. They were published as 781 plates comprising 20,000 of the photographs in a collection titled Animal Locomotion.

Buffalo Skull 1

Buffalo Skull, china, horse hair, and acrylic paint, 2011.


Buffalo Skull, china, horse hair, and acrylic paint, 2011.

Buffalo Skulls  2

Buffalo Skulls, china, horse hair, and acrylic paint, 2011.

Philip Cote  Buffalo Skull

The circle of teepee’s at the top of the skull represents community. At the center of the teepee’s is a medicine-wheel that represents knowledge from the four directions. On the nose of the buffalo skull is a black and yellow medicine wheel this represents Life and Death representing Love and Respect. Blue around the eye’s represent the wisdom passed on from the older brother to help us make wise choices and to remember our ancestors.

Buffalo Skull work in progress

Work In Progress, 2011.

Phil working on Buffalo skull 2

Philip painting Buffalo Skulls. PLANET INDIGENOUS, Niinwin Dabaadjmowin, 2009.

Buffalo Skulls

My first experiment was to break the plates. I originally wanted to toss them from a cliff as a metaphor for the “Buffalo Jump” which was an organized and respectful technique Native peoples used to kill buffalo. They would ‘guide’ or figuratively corral buffalo to literally jump off a cliff. This was seen as a humane and resource responsive method, thus called the ‘Buffalo Jump’. Unfortunately, it was more expedient and responsible to simulate the jump on ‘china’ so I used a hammer. I couldn’t purchase bone china. The plates I bought were dangerously sharp around the edges when broken. I had to file all the broken pieces so that I wouldn’t cut myself. This process was trial and error.  I quickly came to realize that my choice of plates with a rim around the bottom proved difficult to cut or break. The process now became very time consuming like putting a puzzle together.

It was said long ago that the Buffalo were Thunder Beings and that one great Buffalo stood in the Western Doorway to protect the people when they needed help. I decided to place the symbol of lightning in the centre of the skull to visually connect to the image of Thunder. This is a good thought for my work because I have a deep connection to and with Spirit in this sculpture. I plan to honour the Buffalo but also honour the people who once relied on this creature for so much in their life: food, shelter, tools , clothes and ceremonial objects.

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