29 June 2014


woodblock print (mokuhanga)
6" x 6" (152.4 x 152.4 mm)
3 layers of color plus blind emboss on Kochi Kozo paper
edition: 20

The only information I could find online about the NSA's Yellowstone is that it's "an analytical database," but there's a lot of information about Yellowstone National Park, so I went with that.

The word Yellowstone is an Anglicization of the Minnetaree Indians' expression for the Yellowstone River, and in 1872 it became the name of Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the world. Yellowstone National Park is known for its geothermal features (it's situated atop the largest supervolcano in North America) and its wildlife, including Grizzly bears, wolves, and free-ranging herds of bison and elk. The Yellowstone Park bison herd is the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States.

Something I've been thinking about as I've worked on this series of Secret NSA Codewords is how often our culture is shaped by our military decisions and needs. The entire Secret Surveillance State that we now live in is a direct reaction (many would say over-reaction) to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and it turns out that the story of the American Bison is also tied up with a military decision. At one time, an estimated 30 million or more bison dominated most of the central and western portion of North America, where they had lived continuously since prehistoric times, but by 1889 there were only just over 1,000 bison left. Although native Americans hunted bison, and once they acquired horses in the 1600s they could hunt them more efficiently, they generally didn't hunt to excess. It was the U.S. Army that actually reduced the herds in the late 1800s, when they launched a campaign to eliminate bison as a way to control the Indian tribes that depended on the bison for food. In one of the many ironies that characterizes American history, the U.S. Army brought a few dozen bison to Yellowstone Park to 'protect' them, and it is from that tiny herd that the 2,500- to 5,000-head herd at Yellowstone descended.

As I was searching the internet for information about Yellowstone, I also discovered that the supervolcano is a topic on several conspiracy-style web sites. It seems that there have been some small earthquakes in the region lately, and some conspiracy theorists wonder if either the government or a terrorist organization is trying to trigger a volcanic eruption. A video of bison supposedly fleeing Yellowstone went viral this past spring with ominous suggestions that the animals could feel the impending eruption and were moving to safer ground. The video was later debunked, but you here it is for your viewing pleasure.

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