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The Plains Bison Hunt Essay

1792 words - 7 pages

Introduction

The Red River Métis began their organised bison hunts soon after 1820 (Gerhard, 1982). The hunts did not take long to become a major part of the Métis culture and heritage. This would end up being a major source of income for many decades. As the ice age glaciers started to melt, the bison and other animals started moving onto the plains, the Métis then used this migration to their advantage and started hunting them (Gerhard, 1982). Some First Nations, particularly the Dakota and Assiniboine, relied primarily on the bison, utilizing every part of the body and carcass (Gerhard, 1982). As well as others, like the Ojibwa and Cree, used bison to complement more diversified hunter-gatherer lifestyles (Gerhard, 1982).

Figure 1. A Métis hunter.
(Sheppard software, 2012)

The Hunt in Planning
There were two organized hunts every year: a large one in summer and a small one in fall (Gerhard, 1982). For days before a hunt the Red River Settlement would shut down as preparations for the hunt were under way (Gerhard, 1982). After everyone was gathered the rules and regulations for the hunt were laid down with solemnity – and woe betide him who broke these rules, for they were taken very seriously (Gerhard, 1982).
The Métis had a specific means of getting bison when they entered the hunt, which was called "running the herd” (Préfontaine & Young, 2003). Once a herd was located by the Métis, they would slowly ride towards the herd which would remain calm when they were approached quietly, then herding the herd together, once the signal was made, the hunters would charge, causing a stampede (Préfontaine & Young, 2003). The hunters would ride through the herd, selecting and shooting prime bison cows, those that were good and fat (Préfontaine & Young, 2003). This would continue to be done until enough of the animals were harvested (Préfontaine & Young, 2003).

The Camp
The people of the Plains followed the seasonal migrations of bison (Red Deer College, 2000). The dwellings and all of the household possessions were hauled. Hunting groups of 50-100 people, which occupied up to eight tents, made up the seasonal camp (Red Deer College, 2000). The women hauled supplies from camp to camp and unpacked and set-up dwellings (Red Deer College, 2000). The women created, stood up, and owned the tipi. 8-10 hides from the bison were used to create the tipi coverings (Red Deer College, 2000). Tipis were tilted to make it steeper at the back, this making the smoke hole extended down from the sloping front. Although improving the ventilation, this tilt also made the the space at the back of the tipi bigger which is where most of the activity took place. This also helped the shorter face of the cone to be braced stronger against the prevailing wind. The fire was built in the centre of the tipi. The Furniture consisted of lightweight triangular backrests made of willow and bound together with cord. Fur bedding served as couches during the day. Bags of...

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