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2014 Historic Buffalo Treaty Signed by Tribes and First Nations Along U.S. and Canada Border


This historic signing of the “Northern Tribes Buffalo treaty” occurred in Blackfeet territory in Browning, Montana, and brought together members of the Blackfeet Nation, Blood Tribe, Siksika Nation, Piikani Nation, the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Fort Peck Indian Reservation, the Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Indian Reservation, and the Tsuu T’ina Nation.

The Buffalo Treaty will create a lasting alliance among tribes of the northern Great Plains to:

  1. Engage northern Tribes and First Nations in a continuing buffalo conservation dialogue. The treaty tribes will commit to ongoing intertribal meetings to support ecological restoration and the reintroduction of buffalo to parts of the Northern Great Plains. 
  2. Establish a Buffalo Treaty that unites the political power of Tribes and First Nations from the northern Great Plains. This traditional treaty ceremony will establish intertribal alliances for cooperation in the restoration of American buffalo on Tribal/First Nations Reserves or co-managed lands within the U.S. and Canada. 
  3. Advance an international call for the restoration of buffalo. The treaty tribes will present a compelling call for the return of buffalo through media events and public relations efforts among the treaty tribes. 
  4. Engage tribal youth in the treaty process to create lasting legacy for buffalo. The buffalo treaty will include youth delegates at the treaty ceremony to inspire new conservation champions to carry forward the promise of healthy prairies and buffalo into the future.
  5. Strengthen and renew ancient cultural and spiritual relationships with buffalo and grasslands in the Northern Great Plains. The treaty tribes will articulate and further strengthen important relationships within their tribes, and among the tribes, to their lands and buffalo.  Historic Buffalo Treaty


Announcement: We have an Old Native Bison Skull that we need help in researching. Please take a look and let us know if you can help. Any information would be greatly appriciated. Thank you. Native Painted Bison Skull.


Native languages was the source for most of the buffalo/bison terms below.

In Plains Indian languages in general, male and female buffaloes are distinguished, with each having a different designation rather than there being a single generic word covering both sexes. Thus:

Achumawi (Pit River Tribe) — Páw or kujū

biis (female),
heneecee (bull),
nonooni (calf)
Naw-tuh-tha (buffalo belly) Source, History of Colorado 1918

There are many different Apache dialects, but the eastern Apaches generally use the word bi.shish.jik – buffalo

Assiniboine— tatąga (male) pte (female)

Blackfoot……………………..iinii, stomick (bull)

Carrizo Comecrudo (Esto’k gna) ……Wakate (wah kaha te)

Indian Women over dead Buffalo
Women over dead Buffalo-LOC

Cherokee, it’s ᏯᎾᏏ (yansi). However, this is the word for bison, not for buffalo.

Cheyenne……………………hotova’a (bull), hotoaao’o , méhe (female)

Chickasaw…. yanash

Chippewa – OJIBWE (said to mean “Puckered Moccasin People”)

Choctaw Vocabulary: yυnυsh – buffalo yänäsh (yah-nahsh) = buffalo

All the various nations of Indians, seem to be of one descent; they call a buffalo, in their various dialects, by one and the same name, “Yanasa.”  James Adair ‘History of the American Indians-1775 (providing a survey of southern Indian history from the 1740s through the 1760s, particularly the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, and Choctaw)

Comanche ….. tasiwóo –buffalo, nʉmʉ kuutsu –buffalo

Cree- shaganappi – thin narrow cord -product of the Buffalo was shaganappi, or as it was often called ”Northwest iron.” The word in common use is a corruption of the Cree compound pesaaganappi (”shred in a circle”) , and the common sort was simply a long strip cut concentrically from the hide of an old bull. (see below 1890)

Cree – Grammer of the Cree Language by J. Horden, 1881
Napā mistos- Bull
Nashā mistos – Cow

The nêhiyawak (Cree) call buffalo paskwâwi-mostos, or just mostos (which now is a term most used for domesticated cattle, but used to mean only buffalo).

Cree Plains – paskwâwimostos – buffalo
Source: Alberta Elders’ Cree Dictionary English-Cree
Language: Northern Cree

Creek – Maskoki ( Muscogee- by English) -yanase –buffalo, is the same in all dialects, and was probably obtained from the North, since the term occurs in Cheroki also (ya’hsa in Eastern Cheroki)

Crow…. Bishée, tidusup (bull)

“TOASTS HIS MOCCASINED FEET BY THE FIRE.” BUFFALO LAND – 1873 Now, from time beyond ken, the noble savage has been illustrious for the ingenuity with which he lays all disagreeable duties upon the shoulders of the patient squaw. He may ride to their death, in free wild sport, the bison multitudes; but their skins must be converted into marketable robes, and the flesh into jerked meat, by the ugly and over-worked partner of his bosom. While she pins the raw hide to earth, and bends patiently over, fleshing it with horn hatchet for weary hours, the stronger vessel, his abdominal recesses wadded with buffalo meat, toasts his moccasined feet by the fire, fills his lungs with smoke from villainous killikinick, and muses soothingly of white scalps and happy hunting grounds.

Hidatsa……………………….mite kedapi

Kickapoo….. miisiikwaaha


Osage… DADO^KA ]E -ttattonka (male) ttse (female)


Quapaw…….. tte

Seneca Nation “Gakwi:yo:h Farms”- bison producer-
comes from the meaning “good food”

Shawnee …meθoθo


Shoshone Eastern …..Buffalo (bull)…..boy•z shahn or boy•z shuhn

Sioux -Lakota language, the word “tatanka” is translated as
“buffalo” or “buffalo bull.” We call them in our language
“Tatanka,” which means “He Who Owns Us.” Lakota
pte (female),
tatanka (bull, also elk, bear),
ptehinchala (calf),
heyuktan (bent horns),
ptesan (white buffalo)
ptecila – small buffalo
tatanka ohitika – brave buffalo
tashina pte – buffalo robe
Tatanka-Kta – the dead buffalo
Sioux- Oglala
nik-nik- bovine feces, (Modern day term for B.S.?)
wasicu – large herd of buffalo – fat ?
Hoka hey – charge
Hya-a-a-a! – Thanks!
Pteh cala st pi wi – dark red calves- February
waphíya – healer

  Taos Indians – KAH – NOO -NAH- buffalo


ApacheArapahoBlackfeetCarrizo ComecrudoCherokeeCheyenneChickasawChoctaw

ComancheCreeCrowKickapooKiowaModocOsageQuapawSenaca – ShoshoneSioux LakotaSioux OglalaTejas


Buffalo Nation

Boeuf, Nation du. Mentioned in the Jesuit Relation of 1662 as a tribe against which the Iroquois that year sent out an expedition. The name signifies “Buffalo Nation,” but to what people it refers is unknown; it may have designated either the Buffalo clan or gens of some tribe or one of the buffalo hunting tribes of the West.

Side Note: Iroquois, any member of the North American Indian tribes speaking a language of the Iroquoian family—notably the Cayuga, Cherokee, Huron, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. The peoples who spoke Iroquoian languages occupied a continuous territory around Lakes Ontario, Huron, and Erie in present-day New York state and Pennsylvania (U.S.) and southern Ontario and Quebec (Canada). That larger group should be differentiated from the Five Nations (later Six Nations) better known as the Iroquois Confederacy (self name Haudenosaunee Confederacy).


Most every part of the buffalo was used by the Native Americans.
(see What part of the bison was used?)


1844 , the American artist George Catlin revealed the following:
“There are, by a fair calculation, more than 300,000 Indians, who are now subsisted on the flesh of the buffaloes, and by those animals supplied with all the luxuries of life which they desire, as they know of none others. The great variety of uses to which they convert the body and parts of that animal, are almost incredible to the person who has not actually dwelt amongst these people, and closely studied their modes and customs.”

Plains Indians exhibited great skill and ingenuity in turning the natural materials they found around them into tools and materials to help them survive. They used stones, bones, shells, clay, hides, hair, and wood to make tools and implements. But, one of their greatest natural resources was the bison.

The bison was crucial to the life of the Plains Native Americans. For most tribes here, their lives were centered around the bison hunt.

The Native Americans of eastern Nebraska in the late 1600s and early 1700s developed a system of seasonal travel carefully planned to put them at the right place at the right time to make the best use of the right resource. Between planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall, the tribes left their permanent villages to hunt game, particularly bison.

Each bison provided the tribes with a wealth of different raw materials above and beyond the meat. A bison bull in good condition might weigh more than 2,000 pounds and provide about 800 pounds of useable meat. Cows weighed from 700 to 1,200 pounds, and provided an average of 400 pounds of meat. Horns were fashioned into spoons or scoops. The extra thick hide on the top of the head became a bowl. The heart was used as a sack to carry dried meat. The furry hide was tanned and used by the tribe as the walls of their tepees. Later, these hides became a thriving trade item for them. Even the stomach could be used as a cooking vessel. The stomach would be filled with water, meat, herbs and wild onions. Then hot rocks were placed into the mixture to bring it to a boil. A little later, the tribe had stew.

Although each tribe had slightly different techniques, hunters had two basic ways to hunt the bison. A large party of Indians would often surround a herd and then attack, trying to keep the herd milling yet prevent it from stampeding. Large numbers could be killed using this method. A less efficient and more dangerous method was to run the herd and attempt to kill as many as possible on horseback while the animals fled.

Until the introduction of the repeating rifles in the late 1860s, the use of the bow and arrow was the preferred weapon for communal hunts. If hunts were organized so that each man hunted for his own family, his kills could be identified by the markings on his arrows. Selected hunters were assigned the task of hunting for the poor or those families that did not have an active hunter. Even after French traders began to introduced muzzle-loading muskets as a trade good, the bow and arrow was still used. It was almost impossible to ride a galloping horse and reload a muzzle-loading gun.
Following successful hunts there were days of feasting and hard work. The usual butchering process involved men placing the bison on its belly and removing the hide in two sections, divided along the backbone. Then, the meat had to be cut into long thin sheets and dried in the sun. The dried meat was light, portable, and well preserved. source:


Bison dance by the Mandan Indians in front of the Medezin hut in Mih-Tutta-Hangkusch.
1840-1843 Germany Postcard

Bison Dance 1840-1843


The Times
New Orleans, June 20, 1846
The Daily Picayune.

The Prairie Indians and the Treaty

We are at last placed in possession of the letters of our correspondent from the scene of the late treaty with the Comanches and other Prairie Indians. Our correspondent not returning directly with the Commissioners, but diverging to the seat of war on the Rio Grande, his letters have been somewhat delayed: they will not be the less interesting, however, and will serve to correct some erroneous details given by the press in regard to the terms of the treaty, while they supply a fund of information touching the Prairie Indians generally.

Both the Commissioners underwent heavy privations from exposure to cold and other annoyances during a rigorous and inclement season, and amidst conflicting elements of discord, which they found it difficult to allay; but they have the satisfaction of believing that the results of their labors will far outweigh all their personal sacrifices.

The Commissioners, we are authorized to say, believe most confidently that the treaty has been entered into in good faith on the part of the Indian, and that by a little timely attention, which will certainly be given, all the Prairie Indians may be controlled, and that peace and safety of the frontier permanently secured. According to the best information of the Commissioners were able to obtain, these Prairie or border Indians consist of 22,000 souls, of which the Comanches are the master spirits, and constitute about 13,000 souls; subdivided into six different bands with distinct organizations, all speaking the same language, but barely uniting or acting in concert. They make no corn, but live entirely upon the chase of the buffalo and the mustang, and by continuous predatory excursions upon the Northern Mexican provinces. The next in numbers and importance are the Kiaways, numbering about 3500 souls, of the same character and vocation. The next are the Essequetas and Muscalaroes, numbering about 4000 souls. They are recently from the provinces of Mexico, and are a corn-planting, improving people. The Wichetswes, Toweyash, Wacoes, Keechies Tiwoekenies, five little tribes, and although distinct tribes, speaking different languages, from long association and intermarriages, are much the same people. They average about 140 souls each tribe; they plant corn and have settled residences and villages, but are the most notorious horse-thieves in the prairies. The loonies, Annodarcoes and Caddoes, are in much the same condition. They number about 1000 souls, and plant corn, pumpkin, etc. They live upon the Brazos river, nearest to the white settlements. The Lipans and Tonkaways, numbering about 800 souls, have heretofore been allies of Texas, inhabiting the country about San Antonio, and depending upon game for subsistence. These, with a few renegade Kickapoo’s, numbering about 300 souls; Cherokees about 60; Delawares and Shawnees about 50, constitute the different tribes of Indians that were in attendance, and parties to the late treaty. With these preliminary remarks, we proceed to lay the letters of our correspondent “Buffalo Hump” before our readers: [SPECIAL CORRESPONDENCE OF THE PICAYUNE.] COUNCIL SPRINGS, BRAZOS RIVER, MAY 13, 1846.

‘Editors of the Picayune:

Gentlemen: I am an occasional sojourner at this place, though not a party to the contract or pending negotiations, and will, with your leave, give you occasionally an item of what is transpiring in this wild country.

The Council are in full blast: Present, the Commissioners and the Representatives of from ten to twelve distinct band of Indians. Some of these entire bands are present; others are represented by their chiefs and head men. They are as follows: Comanches, 12,500, Wichetawes, 150: Towyash, 150: Keechies, 140: Wacoes, 130: Tiwockonies, 160: Lonies, 250; Annodarcoes, 350; Caddoes, 300; Lepans, 120; Tonqueaways, 750; Essequeyas, 3500; Muscalaroes, 400; a few renegade Kickapoos, 300; Cherokees,60; Delawares, 30; Shawnees,20; and Biluxies, 10; constitute the number assembled here.

Ascertaining their number only by their lodges, which average from two to twelve souls, they number about the amount set opposite each tribe, from which it will appear that there are between 18 and 20,000 souls. Of this number about 2000 are a corn planting people, the balance depend entirely upon the chase, and their predatory habits of stealing, plundering, etc.

The Comanches are Indians of decided rank and influence in the prairie; they are a fine looking, athletic people, and seemed to feel their superiority. They are known upon the prairies by the general appellations by all the Indians of Pah-to-cahae , subdivided into six distinct organizations, such as
Yam-pe-rick-oes, or root diggers;
Hoo-eisk, or honey-eaters;
Coo-ebe-tack-ies, or buffalo-eaters;
Pe-na-tah-es, or timber people;
Te-nay-wish, or dog-eaters;
Noe_tha, or the people in the desert.
But two of these bands inhabit the South, or encounter the Texans.

In Council to-day, they have smoked, talked and hugged. The Presidents talk has been delivered to them, with which they are much pleased. This talk is short and to the point- being in amount: I send my two Captains, Butler and Lewis, to smoke the pipe and talk to you. Listen to their tongue, and follow their counsel. I have directed them to give you some presents. I have never seen I red children of the Prairie, but I wish and hope to do so soon. You must quit your warning and stealing with your white brothers.

The Council have adjourned to meet again to-morrow. I will write you again by the next express to Austin. I am your humble servant,

~Buffalo Hump.


Jackfish Lake, Alberta, Canada-  latter part of the 1850s December – Winter Hunting

The slipperiness of the ice, which gave us so much trouble in crossing the lake, was turned to good account the other day by the Indians, as they drove a band of buffalo cows so that they had to go out on the ice of the lake, when of course they fell and stumbled , and could make no progress, while their pursuers, approaching them on foot, with ease killed the whole, to the number of 14. -Capt. Palliser’s Expedition


A Monograph of the Genus Bos- 1857
Genus BOS,

The capture of the Bison is effective in various ways, chiefly with the rifle, and on foot. Their sense of smelling, however, is so acute, that they are extremely difficult of approach, scenting their enemy from afar, and retiring with the greatest precipitation. Care, therefore, must be taken to go against the wind, being almost blinded by the long hair hanging over their foreheads. The hunters generally aim at the shoulder, which, if effectively hit, causes them to drop at once; otherwise they are infuriated, and become dangerous antagonist, as was proved with the result of Mr. McDonnell’s adventure.

When flying before their pursuers, it would be in vain for the foremost to halt, or attempt to obstruct the progress of the main body, as the throng in the rear, still rushing onwards, the leader must advance, although destruction await the movement. The Indians take advantage of this circumstance to destroy the great quantities of this favorite game; and certainly no method could be resorted to more ineffectually destructive, nor could a more terrible devastation be produced, then that of forcing a numerous herd of these large animals to leap from the brink of a dreadful precipice upon a rocky and broken surface, a hundred feet below

Tom Lovell print
Our Tom Lovell Print- Buffalo Calling

When the Indians determined to destroy Bisons in this way, one of their swiftest-footed and most active young man is selected, who is disguised in a Bison skin, having the head, ears, and horns adjusted on his own head, so as to make the deception very complete; and thus accoutered, he stations himself between the Bison herd and some of the precipices, which often extend for several miles along the rivers. The Indians around the herd as nearly as possible, when, at a given signal, they show themselves, and rush forward with loud yells. The animals being alarmed, and seeing no way open but in the direction of the disguised Indian, run towards him, and he, taking to flight, dashes onto the precipice, where he suddenly secures himself in some previously ascertained crevice. The foremost of the herd arrives at the brink, there is no possibility of retreat, no chance of escape; the foremost may, for an instant, shrink with tear, but the crowd behind, who are terrified by the approaching hunters, rush forward with increasing impetuosity, and the aggregate force hurls them successfully into the Gulf, where certain death awaits them.

Sometimes there taken by the following method a great number of men divide and form a vast square; each band then set fire to the dry grass of the savanna, where the herds are feeding; seen the fire advance on all sides, they retire in great consternation to the centre of the square; the man then close and kill them without the least hazard.

Great numbers are also taken in pounds, constructed with an embankment of such an elevation as to prevent the return of the Bisons when once they are driven into it. A general slaughter then takes place with rifles or arrows.

The Ojibwe, Ojibwa, Chippewa, or Saulteaux are an Anishinaabe people in what is currently southern Canada and the northern Midwestern United States.John Tanner

“By the end of the second day after we left Pembinah we had not a mouthful to eat, and we were beginning to be very hungry. When we laid down in our camp(near Craneberry River) at night, and put our ears close to the ground, we could hear the tramp of the buffaloes, but when we set up we could hear nothing; and on the following morning nothing could be seen of them; though we could command a very extensive view of the Prairie. As we knew they must not be far off in the direction of the sounds we had heard, eight men, of whom I was one, were selected and dispatch to kill some, and bring the meat to a point where it was agreed the party should stop next night. The noise we could still hear next morning, by applying our ears to the ground; and it seemed about as far distant, and in the same direction as before. We started early, and wrote some hours before we can begin to see them; and we first discovered the margin of the herd, it must have been at least 10 miles distant. It was like a black line drawn along the edge of the sky, or a low sure seen across the lake. The distance of the herd from the place where we first heard them could not have been less than twenty miles. But it was now the rutting season, and the various parts of the herd were all the time kept in rapid motion by severe fights of the bulls. To the noise produced by the knocking together of the two divisions of the hoof, when they raise their feet from the ground, and their incessant tramping, was added the loud and furious roar of the bulls, engaged, as they all were, in their terrific and appalling conflicts. We were conscious that our approach to the herd would not occasion the alarm now, that it would at any other time, and we rode directly towards them. As we came near we killed the wounded bull, which scarcely made an effort to escape from us. He had wounds in his flanks, into which I could put my whole hand. As we knew that the flesh of the bulls was not now good to eat, we did not wish to kill them, though we might easily have shot any number. Dismounting we put our horses in the care of some of our number, who were willing to stay back for that purpose, and then crept into the herd to try to kill some cows. I had separated from the others, and advancing, gotten tangled among the bulls. Before I found an opportunity to shoot a cow, the bulls began to fight very near me. In their fury they were totally unconscious of my presence, and came rushing towards me with such violence, that in some alarm for my safety, I took refuge and one of those holes which are so free: where those animals abound, and which they themselves dig to wallow in. Here I found they were pressing directly upon me, and I was compelled to fire to disperse them, and which I did not succeed until I had killed four them. By this firing the cows were so frightened, that I perceived I should not be able to kill any in this quarter; so regaining my horse, I road to a distant part of the herd, where the Indians had succeeded in killing a fat cow. But from this cow as in usual in similar cases, the herd had all moved off, except one bull, who, when I came up, still kept the Indians at bay. “You are warriors,” said I, as I rode up, ‘going far from your own country, to seek an enemy, but you cannot take his wife from that old bull, who has nothing in his hands.’ So saying, I’ve pass them directly towards the bull, then standing something more than two hundred yards distant. He had no sooner saw me approach, then he came plunging towards me with such impetuosity, that, knowing the danger to my horse and myself, I turned and fled. The Indians laughed heartedly at my repulse, but they did not give over their attempts to get at the cow. By dividing the attention of the bull, and creeping up to him on different sides, they lay at length shot him down. While we were cutting up the cow, the herd were at no great distance; and an old cow, which the Indians supposed to be the mother of the one we had killed, taking the scent of the blood, came running with great violence towards us. The Indians were alarmed and fled, many of them not having their guns in their hands; but I had carefully reloaded mine, and had it ready for use. Throwing myself down close to the body of the cow, and behind it, I waited till the other came up within a few yards of the carcass, when I fired upon her, she turned, gave one or two jumps, and fell dead. We now had the meat of two fact cows, which was as much as we wanted; accordingly we repaired, without delay, to the appointed place, where we found our party, whose hunger was already somewhat allayed by a deer one of them had killed.” John Tanner

The New York Times
New York, New York
25 Oct 1867

Peace Agreed Upon with the Comanches’ and Kiowas’.

Medicine Lodge Creek, Kansas, via Fort Harker, Thursday, Oct 24.
The Commission concluded a treaty to-day with the Kiowa and Comanche tribes. These tribe are to go on a reservation in Indian Territory, on the north fork of Bed River, near Witchelow Mountain. They promise peace and are to receive annually $3,500, an agency house, clothing, provisions, etc. This is no material alteration of the treaty of 1865.
The Commissioners will be delayed six days for the arrival of the hostile Cheyenne, now making medicine sixty mile distant. The treaty with the Arapahoe and Apaches win be concluded to-morrow. The Arapahoe returned to night from pursuit of the Kaw Indians who stole their horses from here a few nights since. They recovered the horses and killed the Kaw Indians.



The Trails Drovers of Texas

By L. B. Anderson of Seguin, Texas (1870’s)

The Indians at the Red Cloud agency in Dakota did not bury their dead under the ground, but would erect a scaffold some eight or ten feet high, place the body thereon and cover it with a red blanket, besides placing a bow and quiver of arrows, with a pot of food on the scaffold for the deceased Indian to use on his journey to the “happy hunting grounds.” Every animal the dead Indian owned was brought to the scaffold and killed. I have seen as many as twelve dead horses at one scaffold and several dead dogs.


Effects of the Extermination.

The buffalo supplied the Indian with food, clothing, shelter, bedding, saddles, ropes, shields, and innumerable smaller articles of use and ornament In the United States a paternal government takes the place of the buffalo in supplying all these wants of the red man, and it costs several millions of dollars annually to accomplish the task.

The following are the tribes which depended very largely—some almost wholly—upon the buffalo for the necessities, and many of the luxuries, of their savage life until the Government began to support them:
The Indians of what was once the buffalo country are not starving and freezing, for the reason that the United States Government supplies them regularly with beef and blankets in lieu of buffalo. Does anyone imagine that the Government could not have regulated the killing of buffaloes, and thus maintained the supply, for far less money than it now costs to feed and clothe those 54,758 Indians! This enumeration (from the census of 1886) leaves entirely out of consideration many thousands of Indians living in the Indian Territory and other portions of the Southwest, who drew an annual supply of meat and robes from the chase of the buffalo, notwithstanding the fact that their chief dependence was upon agriculture.

How is it with the Indians of the British Possessions to-day?

Prof. John Maconn writes as follows in his “Manitoba and the Great Northwest,” page 342:

“During the last three years [prior to 1883] the great herds have been kept south of our boundary, and, as the result of this, our Indians have been on the verge of starvation. When the hills were covered with countless thousands [of buffaloes] in 1877, the Blackfeet were dying of starvation in 1879.”

During the winter of 1886-’87, destitution and actual starvation prevailed to an alarming extent among certain tribes of Indians in the Northwest Territory who once lived bountifully on the buffalo. A terrible tale of suffering in the Athabasca and Peace River country has recently (1888) come to the minister of the interior of the Canadian government, in the form of a petition signed by the bishop of that diocese, six clergymen and missionaries, and several justices of the peace. It sets forth that “owing to the destruction of game, the Indians, both last winter and last summer, have been in a state of starvation. They are now in a complete state of destitution, and are utterly unable to provide themselves with clothing, shelter, ammunition, or food for the coming winter.” The petition declares that on account of starvation, and consequent cannibalism, a party of twenty-nine Cree Indians was reduced to three in the winter of 1886. Of the Fort Chippewyan Indians, between twenty and thirty starved to death last winter, and the death of many more was hastened by want of food and by famine diseases. Many other Indians—Crees, Beavers, and Chippewyans—at almost all points where there are missions or trading posts, would certainly have starved to death but for the help given them by the traders and missionaries at those places. It is now declared by the signers of the memorial that scores of families, having lost their heads by starvation, are now perfectly helpless, and during the coming winter must either starve to death or eat one another unless help comes. Heart-rending stories of suffering and cannibalism continue to come in from what was once the buffalo plains.

If ever thoughtless people were punished for their reckless improvidence, the Indians and half-breeds of the Northwest Territory are now paying the penalty for the wasteful slaughter of the buffalo a few short years ago. The buffalo is his own avenger, to an extent his remorseless slayers little dreamed he ever could be.


Piegan, Blood, and Blackfeet2,026
Gros Ventres856
Bannack and Shoshone2,001
Nez Percé1,460
Kiowas and Comanches2,756

Next to the buffalo the elk is the animal on which the Indian depends for food. The plains Indians usually stalk them, and are very successful. Not being biased by such puerile considerations as size, appearance, or wealth of antlers, the Red hunter fires at that animal which he is most sure to hit, and, having wounded, is almost sure to bag it, as he will follow its trail for miles, if necessary, with indomitable patience, and the instinct of a hound.
The Utes, Bannocks, and other Indians living on the slopes of the mountains, sometimes make a wholesale slaughter in winter. A herd being discovered, a surround is made, and the elk are driven into a deep snowdrift, where they are butchered at leisure. It is the principal food of these Indians, there being no buffalo in the country.
I have been told that the remnant of a plains tribe (now living in the Indian territory, but the name of which I have forgotten) is very successful in killing elk from horseback. Each hunter is armed with a long pole, light but strong, the small end of which is split and forced open for about a foot, forming a ‘Y’. About six inches from the open end is fastened a knife blade, sharpened to the finest edge, and set diagonally in the Y; that is, one end is farther forward than the other.
The whole is firmly secured by thongs of raw hide. 
A herd being discovered, the hunters make a surround, and dash upon the frightened beasts, which, confused by the sudden onslaught, and having no leader, crowd together. Running up behind the elk, the hunter sets the crotch of his pole against the hind leg, just above the knee ; a sharp push severs the hamstring. The other leg is served in the same way. So quick and noiseless is this work, that it is said not to be unusual for each hunter to secure two or three victims before the herd finally breaks away.” Colonel Dodge 1877


NOTES: in the days when the bison abounded in the United States a pure white specimen was on rare occasions captured by an Indian hunter, and its skin, priceless to the captor, was devoted to religious uses. (Some Tribes, others thought they were bad medicine)


The Buffalo Horse

One good horse was usually considered worth twenty buffalo skins.

What Was a Horse Worth? (

In the early 1800s, on Native trade routes, the going rates for horses were:
1 ordinary riding horse is worth 8 buffalo robes
1 fine racing horse is worth 10 guns
1 fine hunting horse = Options- several pack animals,  1 gun and 100 loads of ammunition,  3 pounds of tobacco,  15 eagle feathers, 10 weasel skins,  5 tipi poles,  1 buffalo-hide tipi cover,  1 skin shirt and leggings decorated with human hair and quills. 

Hunting traits (Blackfoot): The buffalo horse, is a well-trained animal and is used only for hunting, war, and dress parade. Many Blackfoot men regarded their buffalo horses as priceless possessions. –The Horse in Blackfoot Indian Culture by John Canfield Ewers · 1955

Perhaps the best example of private ownership was the horse, which was acquired by Plains Indians in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The horse revolutionized transportation and hunting. A good horse could be ridden into a stampeding buffalo herd so that arrows could be shot at close range. By following the buffalo, the Plains Indians could live a life of abundance.

The horse became one of the Indian’s most important sources of wealth. “A buffalo runner of known ability was worth several common riding horses or pack animals” (Ewers 1958, 78). In Canada in the early 1800s, a buffalo horse could not be purchased with ten guns–a price far greater than any other tribal possession (Barsness 1985, 61).

Given their value, horses were well-cared for and closely guarded. “No system of branding was used, but each person knew the individualities of his horses so that he could recognize them,” writes Clark Wissler (1910, 97). Apparently, disputes over ownership were few, but if a horse was stolen, the offense was punishable by death. Perhaps more than any other asset, the horse reflects the extent to which Indian culture utilized the institution of private ownership. – PERC


Pemmican, mentioned in every frontier yarn, is made by Indian squaws, and consists of lean pieces of Buffalo and dear cut in strips and dried in the sun; it is eaten in the form in which it is dried or reduced to a powder. One important ingredient, dried Buffalo, is no longer included in pemmican preparations. (1917)

Indians dress skins by pegging them down, leather side up, upon a smooth, hard spot of earth; the only substances used is the brains of the animal from which the pelt was taken, and juices of certain berries; this brain-dressing is simply rubbed over and worked into the leather and till it becomes nearly dry, and is then carefully scraped off with the blunt instrument, leaving the pelt perfectly clean and soft. In the era of made haste in bison extermination upon the Western plains of the United States, Indian dressed Buffalo hides, owing to greater care in skinning as well as excellence in dressing, command a higher price in the market then “white-man handled” robes.

Probably the most painful Native American ceremony was the Sun Dance of the Plains people. This involved dancers having skewers implanted in their chest muscles and being attached by rope to the sacred cottonwood tree. In return for their pain, they hoped for a plentiful supply of buffalo. The Ghost Dance was a late addition to Native American belief systems, appearing around 1890. It was believed that the ritual dance would help restore the old way of life before the arrival of the Europeans. The dance promised the return of the buffalo and communication with the spirits of the dead. Although the Ghost Dance (see below) was peaceful, army authorities outlawed its performance.

THE VOW.  (Crow Sun Dance – read more
As stated in the Introduction, there was only one reason for the performance of a sun dance. A man who had lost a child or younger brother more rarely an elder brother killed by the enemy might decide to show the excess of his grief by undergoing the hardest form of mourning, which would at the same time lead to a vision of retaliation, to be followed by a fulfillment of the promise involved in the vision. Such a man would not express his intentions immediately. For a while, he would fast on the prairies and mourn, no one as yet knowing what he was about. After some time he would hear a herald announcing to the camp that the people were to hunt buffalo and get meat for themselves. When he heard this proclamation, the mourner would call the first person who came near him and ask him to send for the chief. The chief came to look at the mourner, who was emaciated and would not look at the chief. “On this hunt,” the mourner would say, ” I want you to have the hunters keep all the tongues, do not let the children eat any; I want them all. “The chief went back and issued an order through the herald who cried: “Save all tongues, he is going to cut ankles! “The pledger’s name was not mentioned. Then the people knew what was going to happen. The mourner no longer stayed away after telling the chief but returned to camp the same night.

1 Cf. my articles on ” The Crow Sun Dance ” (Journal of American Folk- Lore, XXVII, 1914, pp. 94-96 ) and ” Ceremonialism ” (American Anthropologist, XII, 1914, pp . 602-631).

1* Young-crane, a River Crow about eighty years of age, enumerated six, and Strikes both-ways, the oldest Crow living in 1911, recollected only five.



Noticed the tents in the lower center of the photograph,, the UK news states: “the area is one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes in North American and holds preserved ruins of early indigenous people’s such as The Anasazi and Navajo.”

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona. Photographed in 1873 and situated in northeastern Arizona
Photo by Timothy O’Sullivan Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona. Photographed in 1873 and situated in northeastern Arizona


The Weston Democrat,
Weston West Virginia Aug 28 1871


A United States Indian agent tells a pathetic and tragical story of Standing Buffalo, a noted Indian chief. Buffalo was a friend of the whites, and refused to take up arms against them. A party of Yankton’s came up to the encampment of Standing Buffalo, and urged him to join them in a raid on the Gros Ventres. They talked over the matter two days, and offered Standing Buffalo four horses and other presents if he would join them and lead the party; but he refused, stating that he had pledged his word to me that he and none of his people would go to war. The Yanktons abused and derided him, and finally told him he was a coward and no Chief if he listened to the whites and refused to lead them to war. At last Standing Buffalo became wild with rage and excitement, and declared he would go to war, but he would go to die. He then made disposition of all his horses, property and other effects, giving everything away to relatives and friends; counseled his brother and son and the head men of his tribe to listen when I talked to them, and to abide faithfully by the terms they had made ; that he would never return; would die in battle. He started out and met a large party of Gros Ventres and Assiniboines, far superior to his own in number, on a plain, and charged them. He dashed into their midst himself on his horse, and, without firing a shot, began striking the enemy with his “coo-stick.” He was hit with about thirty shots and fell dead. Standing Buffalo Cir. 1833- June 5th 1871

The Indian Chief “Standing Buffalo.”
Commenting upon the romantic account of the death in battle of “Standing Buffalo Bull,” hereditary Chief of the Upper Sissiton Sioux, sent to the Indian Department by Mr. A. J. Stannous, Special Indian Agent at Milk River Agency, Montana, the St. Paul (Minn,) Pioneer, of the 8th inst., says; “The statement that ‘Standing Buffalo’ was engaged in the Minnesota outbreak is not Strictly true. It is probable that he knew of its commencement and progress, but he was not an active participant in the affair. At the Indian council, held to determine the fate of the white prisoners, ‘ Standing Buffalo’ urged their delivery to General Sibley, ‘and protested against a continuance of the war, and for so doing was branded as a coward by ‘ Little Crow’ and others. He held communication with General Sibley, and while professing great friendship for the whites, resolutely refused to join in any movements against the hostile bands, and finally strayed away to the north-western border, frequently taking refuge in the British possessions. Those who know him best assert that he was a great coward; but physically he was a ‘noble Indian,’ worthy to rank with Fennimore Cooper’s best ideal, ‘At the great council, held at Redwood in 1801 (the year previous to the outbreak), ‘ Standing Buffalo’ was the ‘ observed of all observers.’ While ‘ Red Owl,’ although poorly interpreted, won laurels as an orator, ‘Standing Buffalo’ was most admired of all the chiefs and braves. He was over six feet in height, well proportioned, and as straight as an arrow; his head was crowned with bunches of tall eagle feathers, and his limbs ornamented with all sorts of jingling trinkets; on his naked breast he wore a looking-glass, about four inches square, in a gilt frame, and, armed with bow and arrow, musket and knives, he presented a very warlike appearance. Many of the chiefs were sulky and threatening, but ‘ Standing Buffalo’ was very gracious. His demeanor reassured some timid souls; which had imagined all the horrors that subsequently occurred upon the ground where the council was held.”



Of one fact our journey thoroughly convinced us. Lo’s forte has no connection with the fort of the pale-faces. An unguarded hunter, or a defenseless emigrant wagon, or unarmed railroad laborer, gratifies sufficiently his most warlike ambition. The savages of the plains, in their attacks upon the whites, have been like bees, stinging whenever opportunity offers, and immediately disappearing in space. Their excuses for the murders they commit have been as various as their moods. At one time it is a broken treaty, at another the killing of their buffalo, and trespassing upon the hunting-grounds, and again it is some other grievance. It may be some gratification for them to know that it is estimated that, until within the last three years, a white man’s scalp atoned for each buffalo killed by his race.