Historic Connection

Over one million Native Americans shared the land of North America with the buffalo. Buffalo were very important to Native Americans and to their survival.

Native Americans honored the buffalo and lived in harmony with them. They treated the buffalo with respect, and the buffalo was very sacred to them.

The buffalo was an important part of many Native American cultures. They considered the buffalo as their relatives. This is because the buffalo gave them many gifts such as food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and tools.

The animal was honored in songs, dances, and prayers. Native Americans prayed everyday to the Buffalo Nation to ask them to watch over their people and to continue to help them survive. If a dancer wore a buffalo headdress or imitated a buffalo in dance, this was one way of honoring the buffalo. The skull of a buffalo was used in ceremonies. Many other buffalo parts were used to make sacred items.

Native American people learned many life lessons from the buffalo. As children learn from their parents' example, Native Americans learned from the buffalo's example of how to live a healthy and productive life. Some of those important lessons were: breastfeeding offspring, valuing both young and old, being physically active, respecting both females and males, healthy eating, and using grazing resources wisely.

Hunting

Native Americans hunted the buffalo by using buffalo jumps and a bow and arrow (by foot or by horse).

Buffalo were chased until they ran over a cliff, which was called a buffalo jump. By using horses to help with hunting, they were able to keep up with the fast running speeds of buffalo. Buffalo were usually hunted after they drank water because they couldn't run as fast.

After the hunt, Native Americans gave thanks to the Buffalo Nation for sacrificing one of their own for them. A feast was held to honor the hunters and the Buffalo Nation after harvesting the buffalo.

The women prepared the meat and the hides. They used sharp stones and bones as cutting tools. The meat was cut into strips and dried. It was then stored to be eaten in the winter. The dried meat was sometimes used to make pemmican. Pemmican is made with dried wild berries, tallow (animal fat), and dried meat. Both the berries and meat are crushed and shaped into small patties and dried.

The softer leather, known as the tanned hide, was used for moccasins, blankets, and tipi liners. The hide was stretched on the ground and fastened onto a frame. It was then tanned and scraped. Finally buffalo's brains and fat were pressed into the hide to make it soft.