Political & Economic Organizations - Additional Reading

Economic Organization

A. The Buffalo Jump

For thousands of years, Plains First Nations had hunted buffalo, their primary food source.  The buffalo also provided clothing, tools and shelter. First nations used various hunting methods; the most sophisticated being the buffalo jump.

First Nations hunters took advantage of the buffalo’s instinct to stampede when faced with danger.  They searched for sites where cliffs occurred without warning, and they devised a way to channel the stampeding herd over the cliff.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo jump, an enormous site, has four distinct components. The gathering basin, 40 square kms of grazing area, attracted herds late in the fall.  Hunters disguised in buffalo robes lured the herd, imitating bleating calves, toward the drive lanes.  As the herd moved closer, the hunters circled behind, shouting and waving robes to frighten the herd into a stampede.  Thirty different lanes, lined with 20,000 cairns, directed stampeding herds towards the cliff site.

Below the cliff site was the processing area, where groups camped while butchering the buffalo, sun-drying the meat for pemmican, and cleaning the skins.  Every part of the buffalo was used.  Such a huge operation required the cooperation of many groups that separated again after the hunt.