Bison! Our American West Heritage!
In 1830 there were 40 Million bison in North America!!! By 1889 an estimated 541 existed. What a dramatic decline and decimation of a species. In just 60 years the large roaming herds of the plains were gone. Gone too was the way of life for our Native American brothers and sisters who lived off the bison. The Great Plains tribes utilized every part and parcel of the bison. From robes and Teepees to food and food utensils, the bison provided lodging and security and life to the plains people. The bison also held a very sacred place in their spiritual beliefs. The animal was an important spiritual symbol of the Native American people. It was an integral part of their survival and existence! They were dependent on this animal.
The almost extinction of this animal was one of the costs of the westward expansion. Killed off by Manifest Destiny and its participants. The bison were slaughtered. Systematically the herds disappeared at the hands of the movement west. Th US Government wanted our Native American brothers and sisters to disappear as well. One way to assist with this removal of the indigenous people was to kill off their food source and the source of their survival. The Bison.
What were they to do?
In the years since the end of the 19th century, the efforts to revive the herds of the bison have taken hold. Since that time, the herds of the Great Plains have been rejuvenated to their current estimated levels of 360,000. The herds have survived, but our Native American way of life is on life support. Modern times meet majestic times as the 21st century meets up with the great animal of the 19th century. Conflict arises again.
Mighty and Majestic. Large, stoic, quiet and extremely dangerous. On one hand a docile peaceful animal. When provoked or spooked, he turns into a killing machine. An enormous animal that people want to see and experience. Today, people travel to Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas to catch a glimpse of the great animal. Many tourists are reckless and put themselves and others in harms way to get closer to the bison. When driving through our national parks, such as Glacier, large wandering herds will be encountered. The attempt of these people to get a closer encounter with the bison is foolish. Each tourist season 1 or 2 people die from their wounds that are inflicted upon them by these great beasts! They believe they can walk up to these animals and take selfies! That does not work. The size and speed of these animals is deceiving from 300 yards. Close up they are huge and at any distance they are fast. The bison can accelerate quickly to 35 MPH, and maintain that speed over a long distance. Get to close and you are in serious danger. Beware the signs that are posted!
My hope is that our future generations will see a continued resurgence of this great animal. The herds will hopefully grow, tourists will read and abide by the warnings and this bison will be an ongoing part if the US history.