H/W History ESSAY 14th June 2013
Which was more important to the Indians - the buffalo or the horses?
The buffalo was the main food source for the Indians and the horse was used for many different reasons, chiefly for hunting purposes and as a means of transport. They were also a symbol of wealth and crating a means of trade. Personally, I feel that they were of equal importance to the Indians.
The Indians deepened on the buffalo for their food and had to follow the buffalo wherever they went, the buffalo meat was used in many different ways; the kidneys, liver and brain were eaten raw, the flesh was boiled or roasted and anything left over was sliced into thin strips and smoked or dried. Before horses were used the Indians would stalk the buffalo on foot covered in animal skins to disguise their human smell. It was very hard and dangerous for the Indians, and they couldn't carry lots of buffalo away with them, using this method.
The buffalo were their main food source and the had to travel long distances in freezing winters and scorching summers, just to find some buffalo. They became nomadic and didn't have any mud housing because they were constantly following the buffalo. Their lives depended greatly on the buffalo because without them the Indians could starve. They made sure that none of the buffalo was wasted; they kept the heart and placed it in the plains. They believed that this gave new life to the herd.
When horses were introduced to the Indians, hunting became very different. Horses made hunting easier and they didn't have to be stealthy now that they have horses. The hunt wasn't that much dangerous and they didn't need to wear animal skins.
Horses showed how wealthy each Indian tribe was and how powerful they were. In 1871 the Crow tribe had 9500 horses and they could have been quite supreme against the other tribes. Horses were used for transporting the Indians when they had to follow the buffalo. Horses became prized possessions and they painted them.
Before there were horses the Indians were mainly gathers or farmers and occasionally hunted buffalo. They grew maze, squash and beans or they gathered berries, nuts and roots. After horses came about the Indians became more carless when hunting buffalo and most tribes gave up growing crops. They became more dependant on buffalo and they lost the skill of planting and growing. If the buffalo didn't show up they could starve to death.
I think that the buffalo were much more important to the Indians than horses because the Indians forgot how to farm when they found out that the horses were able to help them with the hunt. They became lazy too. When they thought the horses were beneficial they were actually the opposite. I they couldn't find buffalo they had no food because they didn't know how to farm.
Book: Edexcel GCSE History B Schools History Project: American West, Pearson, 2013