November, 10, 2013
North American bison and westward expansion
The North American bison, more commonly known as the American buffalo, is the largest land animal in North America. Bison are on average more than six feet tall and weigh in at over a ton. These proud and majestic animals were once the dominant species of the North American continent, covering an astonishing majority of the continent from northern Canada to northern Mexico and from what is now western New York to what is now eastern Washington. It is estimated by today’s scientists that there were over 30 million bison in North America prior to the arrival of European settlers. “Even in South Central Africa, which has always been exceedingly prolific in great herds of game, it is probable that all its quadrupeds taken together on an equal area would never have more than equaled the total number of buffalo in this country forty years ago.” (Hornady, 1889, p387). This great animal was the life’s blood of the Native American people and was used for everything from food to clothing and tools for just about any everyday job. Although North American Bison were hunted by Native Americans for centuries, western expansion in the 1800s brought the bison to near extinction.
The great herd
It is a well- known fact that Native Americans hunted the bison for thousands of years with what seemed to be no impact on the enormous population of the great herd. Archeological studies have uncovered proof that Native Americans used virtually every part of the bison for almost all aspects of everyday life, from clothing to shelter and tools, even for jewelry. Despite the fact that bison were hunted by these native peoples, the massive herd of the plains bison not only continued to survive, but also seemed to grow. According to William T. Hornady, Superintendent of The National Zoological Park in 1889, estimating the number of bison in North America prior
References: Hornady, W. (1889). The extermination of the American bison. Retrieved from http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/consrvbib:@FIELD(NUMBER(vr02)). Moloney, C. J. (2011). Death wind for my people: The societal response to the slaughter of the north american bison. (Order No. 1497089, The George Washington University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 132. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/884793845?accountid=458. (884793845). Portman, J. (2013). Need to know on PBS. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/five-things/the-great-american-bison/8950/ .