Buffalo hunt, the means by which the primary food resource of the Plains natives and MÉTIS was harvested.
Buffalo hunt, the means by which the primary food resource of the Plains natives and MÉTIS was harvested. In addition to approaching the BISON, better known as buffalo, herd stealthily, and occasionally using subterfuges such as cloaking themselves in prairie wolf skin or bawling like calves, hunters co-operated in funnelling the herd towards a cliff (buffalo jump) or a strongly built corral (pound), permitting a large kill. The BLOOD, PEIGAN, CREE and SARCEE stampeded the buffalo between 2 barriers (sometimes made of logs interwoven with brush) that led to a cliff ("jump"). Plummeting over the cliff, the buffalo were either killed in the fall or immediately butchered. Deep snows or marshy ground enabled hunters to close with their floundering quarry.
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.