The buffalo is the very sources of life for the plains Indians. From the buffalo they got meat for food, skins for tipis, fur for robes, and anything else was for tools and things needed for everyday life. Even the buffalo’s dung was used to make fuel. The most useful part of the animal was its hide.
What was the importance of the Buffalo to the Great Plains?
The buffalo provided a major source of meat. The hides were made into articles such as clothes and blankets. The horns were made into bowls, and the stomach was used as a cooking pot for stew. How were the Plains Indians’ lives affected by the buffalo?
The nomadic tribes survived on hunting all types of game, such as elk and antelope, but, the buffalo was their main source of food. Following the seasonal migration of the buffalo, the tipis that the Plains Indians lived in were ideal for their nomadic lifestyle, as they were easily put up and disassembled.
For millennia, tribal communities in the Northern Great Plains, depended on bison for food and shelter. People used every part of the bison for a variety of specialized purposes, including food, tools, musical instruments, and shelter.
For in its wake, the lives of countless Native Americans were destroyed, and tens of millions of buffalo, which had roamed freely upon the Great Plains since the last ice age 10,000 years ago, were nearly driven to extinction in a massive slaughter made possible by the railroad.
To make matters worse for wild buffalo, some U.S. government officials actively destroyed bison to defeat their Native American enemies who resisted the takeover of their lands by white settlers. American military commanders ordered troops to kill buffalo to deny Native Americans an important source of food.
The earliest people of the Great Plains mixed hunting and gathering wild plants. The cultures developed horticulture, then agriculture, as they settled in sedentary villages and towns. The Plains Indians lived in tipis because they were easily disassembled and allowed the nomadic life of following game.
The Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota (Sioux) Indians used the buffalo for food. They also used it for clothing and shelter. Because the buffalo was so important, it had a special place in their religion. A holy man named Tatanka came to them as a buffalo.
Bison were saved through the combined efforts of conservationists, scientists, ranchers and ultimately the general public. As their comeback continues, I believe that they can teach us how to be better stewards of the land and provide a future for the Plains where ecosystems and human cultures thrive.
Indians of the northern Plains wore buffalo hides for both practical and ceremonial purposes. They wore buffalo hides in winter, with the fur on the inside for warmth. When people were sick, they often wore a hide painted with symbols to hasten healing. Women sometimes wore painted hides to promote childbearing.
A wild rush of white buffalo hunters came to buffalo countries. In June 1872 over 2 million were just killed just for their hides. The majority of the white buffalo hunters killed for the tongues and hides leaving the carcasses on the Plains to rot. The buffalo tongue was the main meat that the hunters kept.