Killing Bison to Kill Off the Native Population
When the story is told of the death of the North American buffalo, the subtext is often eliminated, with the story often reduced to a tale of unbridled "market hunting" as if poor regulation alone was at work (Full disclosure: I have been guilty of "shorting the true tale" myself).
In fact, what was going on in the American West (both in the U.S. and Canada) was something far more sinister and planned: the systematic annihilation and extermination of the indigenous population of Native Americans.
As Timothy Egan notes in his excellent book, The Worst Hard Time The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl:
"For the sake of a lasting peace," General Sheridan told the Texas Legislature in 1875, the Anglos should "kill, skin and sell until the buffaloes are exterminated. Then your prairie can be covered with speckled cattle and the festive cowboy ... forerunner of an advanced civilization."
... Within a few years of the signing [of the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867], Anglo hunters invaded the treaty land. They killed bison by the millions, stockpiling hides and horns for a lucrative trade back east. Seven million pounds of bison tongues were shipped out of Dodge City, Kansas, in a single two-year period, 1872–1873, a time when one government agent estimated the killing at twenty-five million. Bones, bleaching in the sun in great piles at railroad terminals, were used for fertilizer, selling for up to ten dollars a ton. Among the gluttons for killing was a professional buffalo hunter named Tom Nixon, who said he had once killed 120 animals in forty minutes.
The last bison were killed within five years after the Comanche Nation was routed and moved off the Llano Estacado.
Just a few years earlier, there had been bison herds that covered fifty square miles. Bison were the Indians' commissary, and the remnants of the great southern herd had been run off the ground, every one of them, as a way to ensure that no Indian would ever wander the Texas Panhandle
|Wyoming, Bison and Elk|
And what was America going to do with the plains? Why, plough it up and turn it into farms and catttle ranches of course!
What could go wrong?