Letter: Buffalo-themed amusement park is an insult to the bison and our Creator
Building a water park that honors bison, who were honored by the people who lived here before our ancestors took over the land in ownership, is a huge disrespect to life and our relationship to it. Would my niece and nephew love to play at that water park? Yes. But what idea would they get about what it means to honor bison and water?
I can’t stop thinking about the proposed buffalo-themed amusement park they want to build in Jamestown. I keep picturing the mountains of millions of bison murdered so that trains could cut across the country to make millions of monies. God created the bison. God led them in their migrations. God allowed them to be a sacred and cared for food for his people.
When the Creator God looks down on the bison-themed amusement park, will he be glad? Will he rejoice? Will he find it to be a good use of the earth’s resources? Does it nurture his children? Does it honor creation? These are questions I wonder about, and I wonder if you wonder about this, too.
From a Forum News Service story: “If the board gives the project the greenlight, the investment would come from money in the state's oil tax savings account, known as the Legacy Fund.” Jeremy Turley wrote the article and it was published on April 22, 2021. So our legacy, the legacy of North Dakota, is attached to oil that is pumped from the earth in order to fuel vehicles that thunder across highways to carry ourselves and the things we make from place to place. At Standing Rock, people from many different tribes across the country gathered to stop the building of the pipeline to honor and protect the waters that flow through and under the Midwest. In response, the state of North Dakota increased violence against them and actually passed laws that justified hitting people with vehicles who were blocking the way of the progress of the business of extracting oil.
Is the proposed Buffalo City theme park the answer to North Dakota's tourism challenge? Tourism is North Dakota's No. 3 industry — but the state lacks big attractions that can draw large numbers of visitors and engage them for long periods that translate into a bigger revenue payoff. A proposal centered on the mystique of the buffalo aims to become a tourism gateway.
McFeely Mess podcast: Does the world need a bison-related theme park? Clay Jenkinson discusses proposal to build 'Disney-like' attraction in Jamestown, N.D.
Building a water park that honors bison, who were honored by the people who lived here before our ancestors took over the land in ownership, is a huge disrespect to life and our relationship to it. Would my niece and nephew love to play at that water park? Yes. But what idea would they get about what it means to honor bison and water? If you must build a water park, leave the bison out of it. Build a statue of dollar bills for people to take their pictures with. Make an oil rig that shoots out water so that you are at least honest about what the park is serving and honoring.
But it would be better to pause and consider how we can use the money and land towards being in a healthy relationship with the people of the tribes who lived here before when the land still belonged to the Creator and was taken care of as a gift. Children don’t need another distraction from life. The inner child in us all longs to participate in the work of living together in joy and peace, to say I’m sorry and to participate in the work of cleaning up a mess, of making a relationship right again. Over and over we choose to distract ourselves from the grief of being separated from each other. Over and over we fight to provide for our own needs. That’s why Jesus reminded us, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for the Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12: 32, 33)
Does this investment in a buffalo-themed water park serve God or money? Matthew 6:24, also in the Bible, reminds us that we can’t serve both. Today is another day to choose.
Angela Barber lives in Jamestown.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.