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The Métis
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The Buffalo Hunt

Buffalo herds
  • The buffalo hunt played an integral part in the development of the Métis Nation.
  • Buffalo hunting provided the Métis with a livelihood, and helped sustain their way of life.
  • Annual Buffalo Hunt
    • They usually organized two big hunts every year, one in the spring and one in the fall.
    • They traveled in large groups or ‘caravans’, sometimes with over 1,000 people and 1,000 carts for a single hunting expedition.
    • The Métis caravans followed the buffalo for long distances, usually hundreds of miles, until they reached buffalo grazing areas.
    • It was at these grazing areas where the buffalo were most easily killed.
    • Men, women and children all went along on the hunts, because they needed as many people as possible to transport all of the buffalo hides and meat back home.
    • The annual buffalo hunt became an important social gathering. It was an opportunity for extended families to see each other once or twice a year and get caught up.

Buffalo herds

Buffalo grazing

Buffalo hunting caravan

Buffalo hunting camp
Métis hunting buffalo on horseback, Paul Kane
  • The introduction of the horse on the Plains, greatly changed the lifestyle of the Métis.
  • Horses allowed the Métis to:
    • Travel a greater distance (during the hunt)
    • Hunt buffalo in a wider area (cover more ground)
    • Kill more buffalo
    • Chase and shoot buffalo from the horse (which was easier)
    • Use Red River Carts (pulled by horses)
    • Hunt without the need for Buffalo Jumps (running buffalo off cliffs to kill them)

Métis hunters, Currier and Ives

Métis buffalo hunt, sketch by C.W.Jeffreys
Métis buffalo hunting laws
Buffalo hunt, George Catlin
  • The Métis buffalo hunts were well organized, and were executed with military precision.
  • There were recognized 'Laws of the Prairies', relating to the buffalo hunt, that everyone had to follow.
  • An elected 'buffalo hunt council' was in charge of enforcing those rules and organizing the hunt.

Buffalo skull
Uses for the buffalo
  • During a single buffalo hunt, Métis hunters could accumulate over a million pounds of meat and hide. Women were responsible for butchering the buffalo, and loading the carts with the meat and furs.
  • The buffalo meat that was brought back fed the Métis, fur traders, and white colonists in the area.
  • All parts of the buffalo were used:
    • Rawhide: containers, shields, buckets, moccasins, ropes, saddles, blankets, snowshoes
    • Buckskin: cradles, moccasins, robes, shirts, leggings, dresses, bags, tipis
    • Hair: headdresses, ornaments, moccasins, stuffing, amulets
    • Skull: rituals
    • Horns: arrows, spoons, ladles
    • Bones: tools, pipes, knives, arrowheads, shovels, splints, clubs
    • Meat: pemmican, jerky, soup
    • Fat: soap, cooking, medicines

Buffalo skin mukluks

Brain tanned coat
Decline of the buffalo
Piles of buffalo bones
  • With the decline and disappearance of the buffalo from the Plains, the Métis were almost destroyed.
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Environment / Housing Food / Hunting / Tools Religion / Ceremonies / Art / Clothing The Buffalo Hunt The Northwest Rebellion Menu
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