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Judi Lynn

(161,080 posts)
Sun Mar 27, 2016, 07:15 PM Mar 2016

Bison coming 'home' to Montana Indian reservation

Source: Associated Press

Bison coming 'home' to Montana Indian reservation

Matthew Brown, Associated Press
Updated 1:33 pm, Sunday, March 27, 2016

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Descendants of a bison herd captured and sent to Canada more than 140 years ago will be relocated to a Montana American Indian reservation next month, in what tribal leaders bill as a homecoming for a species emblematic of their traditions.

The shipment of animals from Alberta's Elk Island National Park to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation follows a 2014 treaty among tribes in the United States and Canada. That agreement aims to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions once roamed.

"For thousands of years the Blackfeet lived among the buffalo here. The buffalo sustained our way of life, provided our food, clothing, shelter," Blackfeet Chairman Harry Barnes said. "It became part of our spiritual being. We want to return the buffalo."

. . .

Bison were hunted to near-extinction in the late 1800s as European settlers advanced across the once-open American West.

Read more: http://www.chron.com/news/us/article/Bison-coming-home-to-Montana-Indian-reservation-7209800.php

Earlier actions regarding the American Buffalo:


One of many piles of skulls of bison slaughtered by the US Army

Bison hides which would NOT be used for tents. [/center]

Genocide by Other Means: U.S. Army Slaughtered Buffalo in Plains Indian Wars

By Adrian Jawort May 9, 2011

. . .

A Land Without Buffalo

As long as the North American buffalo roamed free and bountiful, the Plains Indians were able to remain sovereign. Buffalo were their lifeline—the Indians had a symbiotic relationship with them, and always honored the mighty beasts for the many blessings they provided. “The creation stories of where buffalo came from put them in a very spiritual place among many tribes,” said University of Montana anthropology and Native American studies professor S. Neyooxet Greymorning. “The buffalo crossed many different areas and functions, and it was utilized in many ways. It was used in ceremonies, as well as to make tipi covers that provided homes for people, utensils, shields, weapons and parts were used for sewing with the sinew.”

For several millennia, both the buffalo and the Plains Indians prospered. Estimates put the peak bison population, during the mid-1800s, near 60 million, but based on the “carrying capacity” of the Great Plains, Temple University history professor Andrew Isenberg, author of The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750-1920, believes the number was closer to 30 million. He explains that estimates that went as high as 100 million came from travelers on the plains who saw the heaviest congregations of herds during their summer mating season. “Those observers assumed that such large herds were spread throughout the Plains throughout the year,” he said. “But in other seasons, when the grasses were thin, the bison dispersed into small foraging herds.” The bison population also fluctuated depending on a variety of non-human factors like wolves and harsh weather conditions.

. . .

Isenberg said, “Some Army officers in the Great Plains in the late 1860s and 1870s, including William Sherman and Richard Dodge, as well as the Secretary of the Interior in the 1870s, Columbus Delano, foresaw that if the bison were extinct, the Indians in the Great Plains would have to surrender to the reservation system.” Colonel Dodge said in 1867, “Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone,” and Delano wrote in his 1872 annual report, “The rapid disappearance of game from the former hunting-grounds must operate largely in favor of our efforts to confine the Indians to smaller areas, and compel them to abandon their nomadic customs.”

“As a policy statement, I think that’s pretty clear,” Isenberg said. The Army had already used a similar strategy—In its 1863-1864 campaign against the Navajos, led by Colonel Kit Carson, the Army destroyed tens of thousands of sheep in a successful effort to subdue the Navajos.

. . .

The end came quickly—less than 400 wild bison were left by 1893. And the Plains Indians were just about pushed off the Plains as well—their warriors had fought valiantly against the Army in spite of their inferior numbers, but they now felt inadequate because they were unable to provide for their families. Those proud warriors were confined to reservations, told to farm and wait for the government to provide rations. “It’s really hard to force another culture to recognize what your attributes are for being an upstanding man. They were told, ‘A good farmer is the best thing you can be in our culture,’?” said Jim Stone, a Yankton Sioux and the executive director of the Intertribal Bison Cooperative. “To force that sedentary lifestyle on somebody who was out living on the adrenaline rush of hunting buffalo—either on horse or foot—I don’t know if we can fully comprehend what that would feel like. They had been the caretaker of the buffalo, and suddenly there were no more. From the cultural side, they had failed in their role as humans. I don’t know how I would deal with that.”

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(39,215 posts)
1. This is wonderful however I wonder if the western lands can
Sun Mar 27, 2016, 07:33 PM
Mar 2016

sustain that many buffalo now. Especially with our climate changes.


(39,215 posts)
8. Not to mention that most of the land is no longer wide open.
Sun Mar 27, 2016, 07:48 PM
Mar 2016

Here in NE MN my granddaughter and her family were setting at the dining table when a small group of buffalo ran through their back yard. I turned out that one of the neighbors raises a few and they had gotten out of the pen. He was running them through the yard as a short cut to his place. They are not easy to take care of.


(39,215 posts)
10. It was. They couldn't believe it. Here in MN we often have
Sun Mar 27, 2016, 08:38 PM
Mar 2016

wildlife in our yards even in the towns but buffalo!!


(6,843 posts)
3. And this is why ever Columbus Day I want to scream.
Sun Mar 27, 2016, 07:36 PM
Mar 2016

A zillion posts about Columbus and his a genocide attributed to him, which is stretching it. Instead, everyone ignores the fact that the U.S. government made a collective effort to destroy the American native way of life to ensure manifest destiny and rail road success. Destroying the buffalo was instrumental in accomplishing that goal. However, on this board, it is so much sexier to spout about Columbus when they should be talking about broken treaties, forced reservations, and starvation via purposely destroying a food source. It is akin to what the English did the Irish yet people ignore it and rant about Columbus, most of which is not even historically accurate.

Judi Lynn

(161,080 posts)
4. Bison skulls to be used for fertilizer, 1870
Sun Mar 27, 2016, 07:38 PM
Mar 2016

Bison skulls to be used for fertilizer, 1870

By RHP | Posted on: June 23, 2014 | Updated on: June 23, 2014

. . .

The US Army sanctioned and actively endorsed the wholesale slaughter of bison herds. The federal government promoted bison hunting for various reasons, to allow ranchers to range their cattle without competition from other bovines, and to weaken the North American Indian population. The US government even paid a bounty for each bison skull recovered. Military commanders were ordering their troops to kill bison — not for food, but to deny Native Americans their own source of food. One general believed that bison hunters “did more to defeat the Indian nations in a few years than soldiers did in 50 years.” By 1880, the slaughter was almost over. Where millions of bison once roamed, only a few thousand animals remained.

Thanks in large part to conservation efforts undertaken by volunteers and later US government, the American bison was saved from total extinction. Approximately 500,000 bison currently exist on non-public lands and approximately 30,000 on public lands which includes environmental and government preserves. According to the IUCN, approximately 15,000 bison are considered wild, free-range bison not primarily confined by fencing.

Interesting fact:
◾In 1884 there were around 325 wild bison left in the United States – including 25 in Yellowstone. Before the Europeans arrived in New World, there were more than 50 million bison in North America.


[center]~ ~ ~[/center]
Slaughter of the Buffalo

The massive slaughtering of buffalo in the 1800s worked to disconnect the animal from Native Americans. This had a substantial impact on Native people, physically as well as spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.

As more settlers began coming to North America, conflicts arose between them and Native Americans. Settlers and the US government wanted to take over their land. Native Americans did not want to give it up. The Government saw the Native American's strong relationship with the buffalo. They figured that if they killed the buffalo, the Native Americans would surrender their lands and become a "civilized people". The military was ordered to kill the buffalo to deny Native Americans food. They believed they could do more to harm Native Americans faster by hiring buffalo hunters, than by using the army itself.

The railroads were instrumental in the slaughter of the buffalo. First buffalo were killed for food during the building of the railroads. After they were built, buffalo were killed for safety reasons, because they were in the way and sometimes pushed the trains off the tracks.

Traders and trappers killed buffalo just for the hides and left the rest of the animal to rot. Hides were sold for about $2.00 to $3.50 each. During one winter (1872-73), more than 1.5 million buffalo hides were sent on trains to the Eastern part of the United States to be sold! The bones were also sold for use in bone china, fertilizer, and in sugar processing. A ton of buffalo bones sold for about $8.00.


[center]~ ~ ~[/center]
1872-3 Slaughter of the Buffalo: Extra Sources

Within a few years millions of buffalo were killed for their hides, and thousands of white men, the best rifle-shots in the world, were engaged in the business. The buffalo, like the Indian, was in the pathway of civilization. Now the same territory is occupied by innumerable numbers of domestic animals that contribute untold wealth to our entire country.
General Nelson Miles, Personal Recollections and Observations (1896)

The buffaloes were quite plenty, and it was agreed that we should go into the same herd at the same time and "make a run," as we called it, each one killing as many as possible. A referee was to follow each of us on horseback when we entered the herd, and count the buffaloes killed by each man. The St. Louis excursionists, as well as the other spectators, rode out to the vicinity of the hunting grounds in wagons and on horseback, keeping well out of sight of the buffaloes, so as not to frighten them, until the time came for us to dash into the herd; when they were to come up as near as they pleased and witness the chase.

At last the time came to begin the match. Comstock and I dashed into a herd, followed by the referees. The buffaloes separated; Comstock took the left bunch and I the right. My great forte in killing buffaloes from horseback was to get them circling by riding my horse at the head of the herd, shooting the leaders, thus crowding their followers to the left, till they would finally circle round and round. On this morning the buffaloes were very accommodating, and I soon had them running in a beautiful circle, when I dropped them thick and fast, until I had killed thirty-eight; which finished my run.

Comstock began shooting at the rear of the herd, which he was chasing, and they kept straight on. He succeeded, however, in killing twenty-three, but they were scattered over a distance of three miles, while mine lay close together. I had "nursed" my buffaloes, as a billiard-player does the balls when he makes a big run.
Buffalo Bill Cody, The Autobiography of Buffalo Bill (1920)

"I used a big fifty caliber Sharps rifle. It shot a hundred and twenty grains of powder, and the bullets were an inch and a quarter long. When one of these big (slugs) would hit a buffalo, whether it hit the right place or not, it would make him sick. It wouldn't be long until I put another into him. I have often shot a buffalo ten or fifteen times before I got him down."
George W. Brown, a buffalo hunter 1870-1874

"All this slaughter was a put up job on the part of the government to control Indians by getting rid of their food supply.........it was a low down dirty business."
Teddy ‘Blue’ Abbot, a cowboy in the 1880s E.C. Abbott and H Huntingdon Smith, We Pointed Them North, 1966 page 101



(35,557 posts)
11. Or not.
Sun Mar 27, 2016, 09:16 PM
Mar 2016

There are good reasons to suspect that they arrived in their current location much later than their traditions say. Slavs aren't indigenous to the Balkans, having arrived in the 500s and 600s CE, and the Blackfoot are much less indigenous to Central Canada than that. Probably about as indigenous to their current stomping grounds as the Turks are to Asia Minor.

It's easy to project traditions back thousands of years.

It's always humiliating for people to be told that their oral traditions are in error. One must believe and validate or be condemned for it, unless we don't like the people making the claims then they'd better damned well have ironclad, conclusive proof of their claims.


(12,187 posts)
12. They want the buffalo back
Sun Mar 27, 2016, 09:31 PM
Mar 2016

so they can "hunt" and kill them, just like in the good old days.

Some Lakota in western South Dakota would like the return of free-range buffalo there so they can "hunt" and shoot them on horseback with bows and arrows. Just like in the good old days.


(6,466 posts)
15. *sigh*
Mon Mar 28, 2016, 01:59 AM
Mar 2016

Small victory in a much larger problem.

The "cattle industry" does NOT want Buffalo (technically Bison) to return. They would be a competitor on government grazed lands...of which they pay little for....and more Bison equals less cheap land for cattle to graze. Because Bison are harder to butcher, cull, manage, meat being less "fatty", etc...in other words, profit is a bit more long term. They want them constrained to specific areas and no more, thus ensuring their quick profit (and I won't get into the government subsidies they get) And this is where the economist in me comes out (...why did I major in that?..and why am I in a job that keeps me up to date on it)...keeps the price of Bison high in comparison to beef. It's similar to the elimination of Aurochs in Europe. "Domesticated" animals are easier to control and make a profit.

Wouldn't be surprised if most here on DU didn't know that "wild" Turkeys...or chicken for that matter...have dark meat not just on the legs and thighs..but also the breast. I could say more..but let everyone else figure it out.


(22,635 posts)
16. Where to start?
Mon Mar 28, 2016, 10:58 AM
Mar 2016

Thanks for posting this, Judi Lynn.

The western Native American tribes were decimated by many things......giving them blankets infected with small pox, taking their children to "civilize" in white schools. But the biggest devastation was taking their livelihood. Buffalo were used for food, shelter, clothing, tools, ceremonies. Nothing was wasted. Destroying the buffalo herds was premeditated murder in my book.

Ranchers looked at the wild mustang herds in the same way, as competition for their cattle. They can't kill them today like they used to, but they still want them confined, or gone--on public lands that they lease for next to nothing. Horse slaughter houses were finally banned in this country several years ago, but they can still be shipped to Canada or Mexico.

Native Americans today don't want to rejuvenate the herds so they can hunt them. That's ridiculous. They are caretakers of the species.

Judi Lynn

(161,080 posts)
17. Surely was glad to see your last comment above. So glad. Someone was really trying to take a kick
Mon Mar 28, 2016, 05:04 PM
Mar 2016

at an ancient, original, wildly abused group of human beings, and I couldn't understand what on earth brought that on!

With all the other hating going on, it's unusual seeing someone taking time to take an extra kick at original citizens of this country.

Clearly it can take a long time for ignorance and hatred to dissipate and drift away, like a horrifically bad smell.

Thank you, Bayard.



(14,779 posts)
18. There is only one record of Small Pox Blankets and that is in the 1760s.
Mon Mar 28, 2016, 06:16 PM
Mar 2016

General Amhurst, overall commander in Chief of British Forces in North America in the late 1750s and into the 1760s, did advocate spreading small pox to Native Americans via blankets. The problem was the Americans OPPOSED the plan on the simple grounds Small Pox had a habit of "kick back" i.e. if spread among Native Americans, given the trade relations and interactions even among farmers of both the people on the Frontier and the Native Americas, Small Pox would hit Colonial population. Thus Americans generally opposed giving such blankets to Native Americans.

The British so loved the plan of spreading Small Pox, that when George Washington, who had served on Amhurst's staff during the late 1750s and into the 1760s, became Commander in Chief of US Forces during the Revolution, he ordered his entire Army Arlene
inoculated Small Pox. Thus the US Army became the first Army inoculated against Small Pox.

Yes, Small Pox did spread from White Society to Native American population (and back again), but other then Amhurst's proposal, there is no evidence of any DELIBERATE policy to do so.

More on Amherst and Small Pox:


You can see this concern in 1800s report on Small Pox among Native Americans:

Federal health services for Indians began under War Department auspices in the early 1800's. At that time the Federal Indian policy was primarily one of military containment. As early as 1802 Army physicians took emergency measures to curb contagious diseases among Indian tribes in the vicinity of military posts. The first large scale smallpox vaccination of Indians was authorized by Congress in 1832, probably launched more to protect US soldiers than to benefit Indians. [unpaginated draft, quoted with permission from the author and the Seattle Indian Health Board; publication data: Bergman, Abraham B., et al. "A Political History of the Indian Health Service." The Milbank Quarterly 77, no. 4 (1999):571-604]


More on Small Pox from 1775 to 1782:

By the year's end, Thomas Gage had turned over his command to Sir William Howe, but talk of germ warfare had failed to subside Instead, the evidence mounted. On December 3, shortly after the British began to force selected citizens to leave Boston, four British deserters arrived at the American headquarters in Cambridge. They brought with them a sinister report. General Howe, they said, had deliberately infected several of the exiles with a design to spread the Small-Pox among the [American] Troops."



(14,779 posts)
19. As to the Buffalo...
Mon Mar 28, 2016, 06:45 PM
Mar 2016

Last edited Mon Mar 28, 2016, 07:16 PM - Edit history (1)

Only the Natives of the Plains were dependent on the Bison, the Dakota (Sioux) were actually divided, between the Woodland Sioux that still farmed and the Plains Sioux that followed the Bison herds.

Prior to the introduction of the Horse, most First Americans had no real ability to hunt bison. Without the horse they could NOT keep up with the head, and the use of bows and arrows were marginal on Bison. First Americans would run Bison off a cliff, or run them through a gallant of arrows, but without the horse and the Gun, the Bison was generally to hard to hunt. Most first Americans, even on the Plains, farmed and hunted deer and other small game not Bison. Corn and beans were more important to them then Bison.

Starting in the early 1700s, the horse and the gun were introduced. The horse was more important for it permitted riders to keep up with Bison and shoot them continuously with arrows till the bison died.

Now, starting in the 1700s Bison numbers started to FALL. Areas where you could find Bison slowly at first grew smaller. By the 1830s you already had areas that had been Bison land, but no longer supported bison.



Thus the new method of hunting Bison was NOT Sustainable and that was clear by the 1830s. The US Army accelerated the slaughter but all that amounted to was to speed up the death of the Bison head and the end of the Plains First American's way of life.

Now, much of the Plains is only fit for buffalo and should be returned to it, but that would mean some how ending the division of the land done by the Federal and State Governments since the 1860s. We missed a big chance during the Dust Bowel to take over most of that land and return it to nature. With the slow depletion of the underground water in that area we may see the area return to the bison.

One last Comment, the Dakotas were driven into the Plains by the Iroquois in the late 1600s during the "Beaver Wars" of the late 1600s. I bring this up for the Plain First Americans first choice was farming, like most of the Tribes of what is now the Eastern US, Buffalo hunting came late to them:


More on the Dakota:


In 1730s the Dakota picked up the horse from the Cheyenne, then the Dakota pushed the Cheyenne out of present day Minnesota:


The Blackfeet had been the main Bison hunters prior to the introduction of the Horse:


In turn the Blackfeet border the Shoshones:


The Crow were another people pushed out by the French and Iroquois in the 1700s into the plains:


Around the Great Lakes was the Ojibwa (Chippewa) stronghold:


Cree are a former Great Lakes Tribe forced into Montana and Canada in the 1700:


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