Indian Buffalo Hunters The Foundation of Native Society in the West

Why did they hunt?

In the Midwest, buffalo were a vital part of society. The hides were used for clothing for the harsh winters, as were made into canvases for tipis. Tipis are a cone shaped shelter that could be easily moved. The Indians would follow the herds, as they were the main staple in the lives of every plains Indian. They would also make sure not to over hunt to buffalo, so that the next hunt would be able to take place. If they killed all the buffalo one year, there would be none to use for necessities the next year. Indians also respected the land enough to not ruin the ecosystem. They believed that hunting in excess would curse them.

How did they Hunt?

'' There is no better weapon than the bow for running buffalo.''

The Native Americans had a variety of means of hunting buffalo. The most common way, as shown in the first picture, was to chase the herd over a cliff. This would cause a vast majority of the animals to perish in the fall. This hunt would happen around once a year, and the hide and meat would be cooked and eaten in celebration then, and then spiced and dried as a jerky to be eaten later. Another common way to hunt was riding on horses, and having the parties encircle a part of the herd. They would then fire their arrows and spears into the circle, killing all the bison inside. Although guns were used in war by Indians, they preferred not to use them in the hunt. Bows were more stable to be fired on horseback, and were also easier to reload.

The white man and buffalo

At first, tribes welcomed the white man into their lands and tried to teach them the ways of surviving. Unfortunately, this offer was taken for granted. The Americans greatly over hunted the herds, until there were only 200 buffalo left in the West. There means of hunting were also very different from that of the natives. Instead of being very reserved, white men would simply hunt for sport. They would perch themselves on a stand overlooking the field, and shoot the herd as they walked through. Some hunters boasted on they could kill over 100 buffalo in just a few days. The presence of settlers did not only directly kill buffalo, but brought diseases over as well. Foot-in-mouth diseases killed much more buffalo than actual hunting. It was like Cortes and the Aztecs. He killed many, but the infectious foreign diseases killed even more. The worst part of the situation was, Americans felt no remorse for the near extinction of a species. They only viewed buffalo as "sport and profit for a short time." They believed that buffalo hunting cleared out space for American expansion, and were proud of their additions.

Rath and wright's buffalo yard, containing over 40,000 buffalo hides.

the end?

Today, buffalo are thriving in the US. IN North America, more than 500,000 bison now roam free. Buffalo hunters were once a proud people, but overhunting and disease led to their downfall. This contributed even more to the Indian Problem, as killing all the bison destroyed a civilization, allowing white expansion to come.


Created with images by tpsdave - "john stanley painting oil on canvas"

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