December 14, 2006

Indians killed buffalo?

Flores:  Indians to blame for near-annihilation of bison herds


Manyworlds said...

American Indians were not to blame for wiping out the vast herds of buffalo that once roamed in freedom on the wind-swept grassy plains of North America. On the contrary, humans had a special relationship with the buffalo, a reciprocal agreement that ensured that they would coexist in perpetuity. The buffalo calling ceremony was a ritual in which a singer of a hunting group called the buffalo with a song. A small number of buffalo, upon hearing the call responded, separated from the herd led by a yearling and approached the hunters, walking to where they waited. Upon their arrival, they gave their lives up to the hunters. We thanked them for giving us life. In return, when our trails came to an end on this earth, we were never buried in the ground but placed on the land so our remains would replenish the grass, and in that way we gave life to the buffalo. The famous painting scenes of Indians on horses, running amongst a herd of buffalo, shooting them down with bows and arrows is a myth and never happened. Any hunter worth his salt knows that to kill an animal on the run would cause its flesh to become filled with blood and render the meat inedible. That respectful and productive coexistence came to an end upon the invasion and occupation of the Europeans. The buffalo and the Indians had to be removed from the land to make way for their way of life. So the buffalo were systematically wiped out by the conquerors and the Indians where placed on reservations. Look around us today. The land everywhere is occupied with farms, ranches, towns and cities where the buffalo can no longer roam in freedom and the hunters can no longer gather to to hunt and sing their buffalo calling songs. But we still have those songs and the memory of those times past. We will never allow that oral history to be erased and be replaced by the theory that Indians had a part in the demise of the buffalo.

Rob said...

I can't swear that Indians ran down the buffalo on horses. But I'm pretty sure that dozens of first-person narratives reported such actions. In addition, I know that Indians occasionally stampeded the buffalo over cliffs. I imagine the animals' flesh really filled with blood when their carcasses splattered on the ground.

The researchers took the Native stories into account when they formulated their hypothesis. Their data says the buffalo began dying in great numbers before the white men started shooting them en masse. To disprove this theory, you need better data or a better hypothesis--one that explains the data better than their hypothesis does. A romantic notion that you haven't analyzed or tested isn't enough.