Buffalo Bison

Buffalo Hunt by George Catlin

Buffalo / Bison
Facts and history about the life and lifestyles of Native American Indians and the importance of the Buffalo Bison to the tribes of the Great Plains.  Are the Buffalo and Bison the same animal? No. The American bison (Bison bison) lives only in North America whereas the two main species of buffalo are native to Asia and Africa. What's the difference?

Unlike the buffalo, the American bison has a large shoulder hump and a massive head. Due to the similarities between the two animals, the Europeans who first saw the American bison thought it was a buffalo. Early writers and artists all called the American bison the buffalo - and the name stuck. Read on to discover interesting facts about the American bison and its importance to Native Indians.

Native American Life - Buffalo Bison
The life, history and lifestyle of Native American Indians is a varied and fascinating subject. The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Buffalo Bison.

Buffalo Bison Fact Sheet for kids

  • Buffalo Bison Fact 1: The first European explorers, colonists and settlers introduced the horse to Native American tribes. As the tribes acquired horses it enabled them to migrate to the Great Plains were vast herds of the animals roamed
  • Buffalo Bison Fact 2: The animal not only provided the tribes with food to feed the people but also provided the means to make clothing, tepees, bedding and a whole host of items and objects used in their daily lives 
  • Buffalo Bison Fact 3: Food: Nothing was wasted. The people consumed the meat, the heart, the liver and other parts of the animal.
  • Buffalo Bison Fact 4: Dried meat was used to make a preserved food called Pemmican. Pemmican was a high-energy, fast food that was easily transportable and long lasting. Pemmican could last for up to one year and was eaten during the winter months and when the people were travelling or on trading expeditions
  • Buffalo Bison Fact 5: The bones of the animal provided bone marrow to eat as another type of food. Bones were also boiled to make glue
  • Buffalo Bison Fact 6: The horns were used to adorn fantastic headdresses and were also hollowed-out to create drinking vessels, spoons and ladles
  • Buffalo Bison Fact 7: The skin, or hide, was used to make to make items of clothing such as shirts, cloaks, robes, leggings, dresses, belts, moccasins and breechclouts. It was also used to make tepees, bedding and coverings of drums
  • Buffalo Bison Fact 8: The fat was used to make hair grease and soap
  • Buffalo Bison Fact 9: Sinew (tendon, ligaments and muscle) were used to make thread, bowstrings and a type of cordage to fasten bags and pouches. Moccasins were sewn and secured by strong sinew and hair pipe breastplates were laced together with sinew
  • Buffalo Bison Fact 10: Bladders and the stomach were used to make water containers. They were perfect for this particular job as they were both light and held water which had to be carried from distant streams and rivers
  • Fact 11: Teeth were never wasted and used to create items of jewelry or musical instruments such as rattles
  • Fact 12: The bleached out skulls of the bulls were used by Medicine Men in ceremonies and rituals
  • Fact 13: The brains were used in the process of softening the hide where they were boiled in a softening solution consisting of the brains and entrails of the animal
  • Fact 14: Dried buffalo dung provided fuel for fires
  • Fact 15: When no herds could be found a buffalo dance was performed in which the hunters dressed themselves in the skins and horns of buffalo and imitated the movements of the buffalo
  • Fact 16: In the 1870's the deliberate great slaughter of the bison herds began. It was a calculated attempt to prevent the Native American Indians continuing the Great Plains lifestyle
  • Fact 17: It is estimated that over 7.5 million buffalo were slaughtered from 1872 to 1874
  • Fact 18: The near extermination of the buffalo inevitably meant the demise of the culture of the Plains Native American Indians who so relied on the animal for almost every aspect of their existence
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