The Atlantic

'Kill Every Buffalo You Can! Every Buffalo Dead Is an Indian Gone'

The American bison is the new U.S. national mammal, but its slaughter was once seen as a way to starve Native Americans into submission.
Source: Eadweard Muybridge

It was near the end of September, an unusually warm week in 1871, andWilliam “Buffalo Bill” Cody and a group of wealthy New Yorkers stood atop a grassy hill near the Platte River in Nebraska, where two miles off they spotted six huge brown beasts.

Cody was a legend of the frontier era, part myth conjured in dime novels. The men from New York had expected to find as a “desperado of the West, bristling with knives and pistols,” but they did not. Cody was loquacious and friendly, an expert hunter. He knew that with the wind blowing from behind, the men risked their scent being carried to the animals and scaring them away. Then again, a buffalo is a lumbering, hirsute cow, and the men were outfitted with some of the quickest horses and held the best guns owned bythe U.S. Army, which was outfitting the hunting expedition. The Army wasn’t in the business of guiding hunting trips for soft-skinned Wall Streeters, but it was in the business of controlling the Native Americans in the area, and that meant killing buffalo. One colonel, four years earlier, a wealthy hunter who felt a shiver of guilt after he shot 30 bulls in one trip: "Kill every buffalo you can! Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone.”

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