Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Buffalo Hunt by James Fontana

"My grandfather went to South Dakota on a buffalo hunt when he was about 19 or 20 years old.  It was during the Gold Rush to the Black Hills.  The white men killed many buffalo  just for sport and the Indians did not like it because they were killing off the buffalo which the Indians needed for food, clothing, shelter, and weapons. The Indians also thought the white men were very clumsy hunters.

I do not know how Grandfather first met Chief Yellowbird, but the chief knew that grandfather was a very good rider.  One time grandfather met Chief Yellowbird and about 50 Indians where they were going to hunt buffalo. Chief Yellowbird invited Grandfather to hunt with them  Grandfather was very pleased because the Indians never let white men hunt buffalo with them.  Grandfather knew he would have to do what the Indians did and follow the Chief's instructions.  First he took the saddle and blanket off his horse.  Then he took off his clothes wearing only his cartridge belt and carrying his gun.

The Indians formed a long line, one behind the other, with Chief Yellowbird at the head.  At first they trotten easily until the chief signaled them to stop.  He had sighted the buffalo grazing.  They then proceeded at a slow, quiet walk,.still in single file. until they had circled around so the buffalo were between them and the direction of the wind. so the buffalo would not get their scent and start running.

Chief Yellowbird signaled again and each hunter turned his pony toward the buffalo.  Now they were in one long line riding abreat, still slowly and quietly.  They proceeded this way..closing in on the herd until the first buffalo raised his head, gave a warning snort and started the herd moving.  Then with a yell the chief signaled for the stampede and every pony broke into a wild gallop into the buffalo heard.  It was a serious and dangerous game.  There is just one place to shoot a buffalo to fell it quickly.  That is right behind the left fore leg.  You can see that it is not an easy shot for a target running wildly and from a pony on a fast gallop.  But to wound a buffalo and not kill it was asking for death.  A wounded buffalo was likely to turn and charge horse and rider and in that mass of wild animals one could only hope his pony could out run the enraged buffalo.  It was no boy's game and only those who were sure of their ability to shoot took part in it.

Each Indian killed one buffalo and when his buffalo fell, the hunter dropped a moccasin beside it as he rode by.  Later, after he rode back to camp, his squaw came and identified his buffalo by the moccasin, which she had made, and she skinned the animal, cut off the meat, wrapped it in the hide and carried it back to camp on a horse or travois.  The young boys and girls might help, but never the hunters or warriors.

As Grandfather had no moccasin to mark his kill, they knew his buffalo was the one not marked.  Grandfather gave his buffalo to Chief Yellowbird to be cooked for a feast for his people as a token of thanks for letting him ride with them.  Of course the chief invited him to the feast, but Grandfather had to ride on to Deadwood.  This was an honor that was accorded to very few white men . It was a very high compliment for the Indians to pay to Grandfather's riding and hunting ability."

Note:: from Estelle:  Every bit of the buffalo was used by the Indians. The hides for tee pees, clothes, boots, straps, etc.  The horns for powder horns, dippers, etc. The bones for tools, scrapers, needles, etc.  Nothing was wasted.  The buffaloes killed by white men, were killed by buffalo hunters for the army.  They just took the hump which was the choicest meat and left thee rest.  This naturally angered the Indians to se this waste of one of their main resources.

1 comment:

  1. I always liked this story Mom. Keep them coming. Now i can tell them to my kids like you told them to us. They will always be here for me. Thanks!!