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An Ancient Bond with the Land

Communal Hunters

Hunting the Bison

Constructing a bison pound involved enormous labour. People built converging rows of small rock and brush cairns that could stretch for a kilometre or more across the prairie. These rows formed drive lanes between which the bison were driven towards the pound.

The location of a pound was governed by the local landscape, a knowledge of bison behaviour, and the availability of building materials. The walls of the pound were built using hundreds of wooden poles, cut with stone axes. These poles were interwoven with brush and covered with hides, so that the bison could not see a route for escape.

Over thousands of years, people developed and adopted new and more efficient weapons to hunt bison. Thrusting spears were superseded by darts propelled with an atlatl or spear-thrower, and then by the bow and arrow. There were also many changes in the styles of weapon tips.

The bison pound was the most common type of trap built in the Plains region. If properly maintained, a pound could be used repeatedly over many years. The bones of the animals killed there would accumulate over time.

Lieutenant George Back drew A Buffalo Pound on February 8, 1820, as he travelled through Saskatchewan. This engraving by Edward Finden, based on that drawing, was originally published by John Murray, London, in 1823.
Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, C-33615

Bison Pound - Library and Archives Canada - C-33615

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