Sacred Beings
Buffalo and Deer - Sustainers of Life

Re-emergence of the Buffalo

Buffalo auction
Indian National Rodeo Finals, Rapid City, South Dakota, 1995
Photograph by Leslie Tepper, CMC K98-02

During the period of overhunting, the buffalo were saved by a few men of vision. Several Métis and Native people from the Plains and Plateau were able to preserve buffalo calves and establish new herds. In the early 1870s, Samuel Walking Coyote drove a few buffalo over the Rocky Mountains to the Salish Reservation in Montana. These animals were the first members of a large herd developed over the next 20 years by the Salish/Métis families of Michel Pablo and Charles Allard. The first buffalo rancher in Canada may have been the Métis buffalo hunter James McKay from Manitoba. In 1873, McKay, along with Charles Alloway, began gathering orphaned calves, hoping they could be used like oxen in farming.

Herding buffalo into pens
National Archives of Canada PA 186342

Some of these buffalo were sold to Wild West shows, others to businessmen who wanted to start herds elsewhere in the United States. In 1906, Pablo sold his herd of some 700 buffalo to the Canadian government. It took experienced cowboys from the reservation over five years to round up the buffalo for shipping by rail to the Wainwright Preserve near Edmonton, Alberta. For almost thirty years, Native bands and tribes have owned buffalo herds produced from the ones preserved by Canadian and U.S. park services. Some have recently formed a bison cooperative and hold auctions so that other communities may establish herds on their own reserves.

A few of the cowboys who helped corral the buffalo bought in Montana by the Canadian government in 1906
National Archives of Canada PA 186461

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Introduction | Hunting Methods | Products of Life | Buffalo and Deer Imagery | Buffalo Ritual | Decimation of the Buffalo and Deer | Re-emergence of the Buffalo | Transition to Cattle ranching

Introduction | Buffalo and Deer | Dog and Coyote | Honouring the Horse