Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bison Hunting On Western Wednesday...!

I know that you think you already know what this post is about, but maybe you'll be surprised.

Not everything turns out like we want them to, and that includes some mistaken ideas about the famous "Bison" hunts in the old days. Now, I'm not talking about the hide only hunting done by the whites at times, but some of the tactics used by the native Americans as well!

Native Americans Didn’t Always Use The Whole Bison

By Dustin Koski on Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Native Americans are often revered for how in touch with nature they were. One of the things most often cited as evidence of this is how they would use every single part of every bison that they killed. In reality, many tribes engaged in extremely wasteful practices. Some Blackfoot, for example, would drive entire herds over cliffs and pick out the pieces they wanted to use from the pile at the bottom.


In light of the crimes against humanity that the Native Americans endured, their various cultures have been heavily romanticized. They were often portrayed in popular culture as being spiritually in touch with the Earth in a way that most Western societies don’t even really attempt anymore. This image of them is actually of them is actually a fairly recent notion for some tribes.

Take the notorious idea that Plains Native Americans used every part of the bison because they were not wasteful. For centuries this couldn’t have been further from the truth, and not just in terms of parts of bison. Paleoindians in areas like the Rio Grande in the Blackfoot territory of the Northwestern Great Plains areas had a technique of killing large numbers of bison. Through the use of prairie fire or other methods of spooking them, they would cause a stampede which would send as many as 1,000 bison over cliff edges to their deaths. Whole animals would be passed up in favor of cuts of the younger and more delectable catches (and the ones on the bottom of the pile would be crushed beyond use anyway). This system was tolerated because, with the limited speed with which humans could move, there wasn’t a more feasible method available. The belief pervaded at the time that the Earth would provide an endless supply of game even though numerous species had already been driven to extinction on North America by these hunters.

In fact, it was Europeans who put an end to mass bison canyon slaughter and who brought about the extremely efficient use of bison, albeit indirectly. This is obviously not meant to sing the praises of Europeans in anyway or to condemn Native Americans as crude, savage, or any such thing, but the truth of the distant past for many Native American tribes was not one of the complete harmony with nature we are usually taught about.

The first step was the 16th-century arrival of conquistadors who brought horses and horse riding with them (along with plagues and mass murder). Horses actually had lived on America centuries before the Spanish arrived, but were one of the numerous species that had been hunted to extinction. Once the Plains tribes started using horses, they began to hunt much more efficiently.

The idealized notion of ecologically-minded Native Americans seems to be a product of the 1960s. It was a period where anti-modernist ideals were fashionable and where Native Americans were campaigning for more of a political voice. Probably the most notorious image from this period was that of the “Crying Indian” from the Keep America Beautiful public service announcement. In such an environment misconceptions are inevitable.

I'd like to think that the native Americans used as much of the animals they hunted as they could, but in truth how do we really know? Cave drawings and passed down myths can't always be counted on to tell us the whole truth, I reckon.

Coffee out on the rather warm patio this morning. Feels like a storm brewing to me!


Mamahen said...

Hindsight is always 20/20 as they say. We humans have made many wrong choices in our actions...we just usually don't see them as such... Rainy here but cooler temps. How about some oatmeal cookies this morning, sound ok :))

linda m said...

Interesting story this morning. I know I grew up believing they used everything from the "kill". But how can we ever know for sure. They aren't around to tell us and todays Native Americans probably don't know for sure either unless their ancestors told them the truth. The rain around here has stopped for a few days and we are having cooler temps. Would love a cup of coffee on your patio. Thanks Mamahen - would love an oatmeal cookie.

JO said...

Now that is interesting. They say early man did this to kill the large mammals because they couldn't kill then any other way. But who knows if that is true either. For some reason lately I have had trouble not seeing the pictures you post, is anyone else having the same problem?

I'll bring some fresh ground Kenya coffee I picked up yesterdat. It has been a long time since I had beans.

Dizzy-Dick said...

Most people just think of instant gratification and don't worry about tomorrow until it comes. I guess even back then, the Indians felt the same way. Human nature, at its worse, I guess.

Rob said...

"Mass murder" & "crimes against humanity", it's not hard to see the authors view point.

History is a long line of peoples being displaced (by drought, famine or invaders)or conquered and enslaved or killed outright.
Time & time again...

I don't do guilt very well, at least not from actions a hundred years ago or two thousand years ago. Some people seem to love to feel guilty for things that happened way before they lived.

It was an interesting piece.

HermitJim said...

Hey Mamahen...
Oatmeal cookies sound fine to me. Human nature being what it is, I'm sure that at times the easier way won out over everything else, even in the past.

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Linda M...
Hard to know what really happened, I guess,

History isn't always as pretty as we would like.

Thanks for coming by this morning.

Hey Jo...
Not having been there, all we can do is go by what the signs say happened.

The truth will always be a matter of some guess work, I reckon.

Thanks, sweetie, for stopping by!

Hey Dizzy...
I'm sure that back then getting some meat was the foremost thought they had.

Can't say as I blame them, though.

Thanks for dropping in this morning.

Hey Rob...
I do wonder if trying to put a negative note on some of the past isn't someone's way of guilt transfer. Like you say...I don't do guilt well for the actions of those before me.

I'm sure that they did what they felt they had to do to survive. Wouldn't we all?

Thanks for coming over today!

Stoney Creek Homestead said...

History, I always believed, has an interpretive note to it. We only can make educated guess as to what the truth might actually be. Even in 'ancient' times, humanity was wasteful. We still are unfortunately.

I also believe, thanks to Hollywood, we all romanticize the past--especially the American West.

Coffee is done for today--time to get outside and do chores. I hope we get rain, although we have 100 acres of hay knocked down. We are very dry. Hay is not as tall or as thick compared to last year.