Andrew Isenberg said that “the destruction of the bison was not merely the result of human agency but the consequence of the interaction of human society with a dynamic environment.” Humans and nature both played a large role in the ultimate demise of the bison.
Bison have been around for 10,000 years. Their ancestors where known as giant bison and they were hunted by the paleoindians that came over on the Bering Strait. The giant bison however became extinct because the paleoindians hunted them and at the end of the last ice age, most of the vegetation they fed off of was destroyed. Dwarf bison, the bison that are around today, survived the ice age because the dwarf bison were faster, reproduced more rapidly and required less vegetation to sustain them. The destruction of giant bison resembles what happened to the bison in modern day America; accept they had to survive droughts instead of extreme cold.
Bison were not always the main source of nomadic people’s livelihood on the plains. One example of how nomads survived is that of the Comanche’s, “they lived between the Colorado front range and the Swatch Mountains, from the San Luis Valleys in the south to the Laramie Basin in the north, they snared jack rabbits and other mammals, fished, and gathered small seeds, nuts, and berries. From the slopes of the Yampa River Valley they dug for roots of the Yampa plant, during the summer they traveled east to the plains to hunt bison on foot and south to the Pueblos to raid and trade corn” (Isenberg, 34) The nomads depended on the bison for food, shelter, cloths, and small tools. Before Euroamericans arrived in North America, nomads hunted bison as they needed them, so they wouldn’t be wasteful. In the eighteenth century nomads “abandoned their ecological safety nets in order to hunt bison year round” (Isenberg 39). Horses, stolen from the Spanish, prompted this change because it made hunting the bison easier. Horses worked their way across the plains during the 1700-1750’s which made most tribes into equestrian nomads rather than semi-sedentary nomads. “The increase of intertribal trade was a new form of ecological safety net: the Indians depended on trade rather than their own labor to ensure diversity of resources” (Isenberg 47) because they only hunted for bison now.
The nomads started trading with the euroamericans; they could trade bison skins for alcohol, small tools, knifes needles, guns and horses. This became known as the fur trade, which made the nomads specialize in hunting. These were all things that made the nomads lives easier; they would hunt more bison so they could trade for the goods. Trading goods made the nomads lives easier but it also exposed them to European diseases, such as small pox, which wiped out large numbers of their tribes. They had to rely on bison to sustain themselves, in a time when they didn’t have enough people left to maintain a village properly. This was when the bison’s population took one of its...