The Life-Giving Buffalo

Though the Southwestern Plains Indians warred against each other and against white encroachment onto their lands, they were principally a nomadic people who followed the great buffalo herds during their yearly migrations.

The Indians hunted bison for food, clothing, shelter, fuel, in honor of the Great Spirit… venerating the animal for providing the necessities for their very survival.  Whites, on the other hand killed off  the herds for sport (the thrill of the hunt), to assuage their vanity (buffalo hides becoming fashionable in Eastern and European markets), and to finally deny the Indians their way of life by slaughtering the buffalo in the millions to force the Plains tribes onto reservations and into an agrarian lifestyle.IMG_2176

The Comanche bands and all the Plains Indian tribes relied on the buffalo for their very existence. The “life-force” of the animal was celebrated in their religious ceremonies; the heart was often left after a hunt as an offering to the Great Spirit. They found uses for literally every part of the buffalo. The horns could be made to hold water or gun powder, used as a musical instrument, or ground into an aphrodisiac for the old men who could no longer get an erection on their own. The head and horns were used in ceremonial dress, the warriors wearing the headdress in homage to the life-giving buffalo while dancing to bring about its return. The tongue, heart, liver, rump, and tenderloin fed the people; the meat roasted or dried into jerky, while the sinew was used by the women to sew hides together to provide clothing, shelter, even toys. The entrails including the intestines, stomach, and bladder were thoroughly washed and used to carry water. Even the hooves were boiled down to produce a glue like substance to bond items together including flesh wounds caused in battle or by accident. Nothing was wasted.

The white hunters, however, cared nothing for the multiple uses made of the buffalo by the Indians. Only their woolly hides were of value to them, and the rotting carcasses left behind by the thousands attested to their indifference. For the Comanche this slaughter was a direct threat to their way of life and was seen as a deliberate strategy to destroy a people the whites could not subdue by war alone. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Author: maxknight73

Retired Army Officer and Counterintelligence Specialist. Currently living in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Gray. Cancer survivor. Avid history buff and writer.

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