“The antelope have gone; the buffalo wallows are empty...The white man’s medicine is stronger than ours; his iron horses rush over the buffalo trail.”
– Plenty Coups, Crow Indian Chief
Thirty million bison roamed the open prairies when settlers arrived. Crow, Cheyenne, Sioux and other native people depended on them for food, homes, clothing and tools. But as railroads, farms and fences sprang up, the bison were driven out. Native people lost their food supply and were forced onto reservations.
Shooting bison from trains became an officially accepted “sport”. Bison meat, bones and hides brought in money, and officials knew that fewer bison meant fewer Indians. By 1870, the great bison herds had been cut down to fewer than 1,000 animals.
Image credits: Library of Congress