I've been listening to an audiobook called The Essential Lewis and Clark and it's been quite interesting but today I heard an exerpt I found particularly curious. It detailed a scene the explorers had come upon where hundreds of buffalo had been driven off of a cliff by Missouri indians with the vast majority of the carcasses left to rot untouched. Now ever since I watched the movie Dances With Wolves I had been under the impression that only the evil white man could be so wastefully destructive of Mother Earth's bounty. I speak of the scene where Kevin Costner and the Sioux tribe he lives with track a herd of buffalo and come across a vast field of dead animals with only their horns and tongues cut off and the rest of the buffalo left to rot. For shame white man! Well it turns out that the Missouri indians did essentially the same thing only they probably did use most of the buffalo parts from the ones they took... they just killed way more than they needed; sort of like when my son goes to the pizza street buffet and stacks his plate with more than he could possibly eat. Here is the exerpt from Lewis and Clark's journal:
"Today we passed on the starboard side the remains of a vast many mangled carcasses of buffalo which had been driven over a precipice of 120 feet by the Indians and perished. The water appeared to have washed away a part of this immense pile of slaughter, and still there remained the fragments of at least a hundred carcasses. They created a most horrid stench. In this manner the Indians of the Missouri destroy vast herds of buffalo at a stroke: For this purpose, one of the most active and fleet young men is selected and disguised in a robe of buffalo skin, having also the skin of the buffalo’s head with the ears and horns fastened on his head in the form of a cap. Thus caparisoned, he places himself at a convenient distance between a herd of buffalo and a precipice proper for that purpose, which happens in many places on this river for miles together. The other Indians now surround the herd on the back and flanks. At a signal agreed on, all show themselves at the same time, moving forward towards the buffalo.
The disguised Indian or decoy has taken care to place himself sufficiently nigh the buffalo to be noticed by them when they take to flight. Running before them, the buffalo follow him in full speed to the precipice. The cattle behind driving those in front over and seeing them go, do not look or hesitate about following until the whole are precipitated down the precipice, forming one common mass of dead and mangled carcasses. The decoy, in the mean time, has taken care to secure himself in some cranny or crevice of the cliff which he had previously prepared for that purpose. The part of the decoy, I am informed, is extremely dangerous. If they are not very fleet runners, the buffalo tread them under foot and crush them to death, and sometimes drive them over the precipice also, where they perish with the buffalo. Just above this place we came to for dinner, opposite the entrance of a bold running river, 40 yards wide, which falls in on the larboard side. This stream we call the Slaughter River. -Lewis, May 29, 1805"