The Plains Indians hunted buffalo and other game such as elk and
antelope. To capture them they would surround the herd or try to
stamped the herds off cliffs or into areas where they could be
killed more easily. Life for the Plains Indians was much easier after horses. The Indians hunted with bows and arrows even after the European traders
brought guns. The Indians hunted all year long. Because the buffalo
was so plentiful the Indian hunters were not limited in the number
of buffalo they killed. The buffalo was roasted over a fire, dried
in the sun and made into jerky, and made into pemmican. Pemmican was made by pounding dried meat into powder and mixing it with melted fat and berries. The
Plains Indians ate berries, cherries, wild greens, camas roots, and
wild prairie turnip with the meat.
BUFFALO HUNT, UNDER THE WOLF SKIN - by George Catlin 1830's
Great Spirit or Wakan Tanka
The buffalo was very valuable to the Plains Indians. The buffalo meat was dried and mixed with marrow and fruit to become a food that would keep for long periods of time. The Indians used hides to make ropes, shields, and clothing. The teepee was also made from the buffalo hide. Sinew or muscle was used to make bowstrings, moccasins, and bags. The bones were used to make hoes and runners for dog sleds. The horns were made into utensils such as a spoon, cup, or bowl. Even the hair could be made into rope.
A parfleche was used by the Plains Indians to carry their possessions. It was made from a buffalo hide. The hide was cut into a large rectangular shape. Belongings were placed on the center of the hide. Next the hide was folded like and envelope and tied with rawhide straps. The parfleche was made water proof by covering it with a glue made by boiling the tails of beavers.
The artists of the Plains used buffalo hides for their artwork. The hides were made into clothing, houses, beds, shields, belts, moccasins, and folded envelopes used for storage called parfleches. These objects were painted or beaded in geometric patterns. Stripes, diamonds, crosses, arrows, hour-glass shapes, thunderbirds, stars and hunting scenes were often used.
Medicine Bundles and Pipes
The Plains Indians carried bags of such things as animal and bird skins, pipes, dried herbs, and tobacco. They believed these objects to have special powers. Two of the most important bundles were the pipe bundle and the beaver bundle. The beaver bundle always contained the skin of the beaver along with skins of other animals. Some had feathers of birds, rattles, and other objects. The bundles were used in healing and opened at certain times such as when the first thunder was heard in the spring. The pipe bundle contained tobacco to be used in pipes.
Some of the ancient pipes were as long as a mans arm. Many pipes were like a huge cigarette holder. Some of the pipes were made of wood and others were made of a special kind of stone. The pipes were decorated with carving. Two types of pipes were made. The peace pipe could be carried across enemy territory and would assure safe passage for the carrier. The war pipe had red feathers signifying blood and was passed around and smoked before a battle was to take place.