With the introduction of the horse, about 1730, the charge and the surround became additional hunting methods. A large number of jump sites have been documented by archaeologists. Perhaps one of the oldest is HEAD-SMASHED-IN BUFFALO JUMP in southwestern Alberta, now a UNITED NATIONS WORLD HERITAGE SITE. The hunt was the basis of the Plains Native way of life, since it provided the essentials: the meat was food, sinew and bone became tools, and hides became clothing and shelter. The hunt and its products gave rise to and supported complex social, political and cultural institutions. The hunt was also essential to the FUR TRADE. Provisioning posts along the Red, Assiniboine and North Saskatchewan rivers acquired dried meat and PEMMICAN, and fresh buffalo meat in season. After the mid-19th century, hides were used to make industrial drive belts.
The increase in the Aboriginal and Métis population, the demands of industrial centres and the incompatibility of free-running herds with agricultural settlement have been cited as explanations of the extinction of the bison. The use of the horse may also have been critical: pedestrian hunters harvested buffalo with little discrimination as to sex and age, but the horse hunters could focus on the favoured heifer or young cow. By the early 1880s the prairie bison were virtually extinct; a few wood bison survived in northern forests.
Author JOHN E. FOSTER
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge
The website for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, which features Canada's largest essay writing competition for Aboriginal youth (ages 14-29) and a companion program for those who prefer to work through painting, drawing and photography. See their guidelines, teacher resources, profiles of winners, and more. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Take a virtual tour of this historic aboriginal settlement in Saskatchewan. Features a fascinating video clip about the traditional buffalo hunt and local archaeological projects. From VIA Rail Canada.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
An illustrated information guide for one of the world's best preserved buffalo jumps and a Unesco World Heritage Site located near Fort Macleod in Alberta. Produced by the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump interpretive centre.
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
Sir Henry James Warre
A collection of paintings and drawings depicting western Canada by Sir Henry James Warre. From the website for the British Columbia Archives.