New Perspectives on THE WEST
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Fight No More Forever
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Grandest Enterprise Under God


A Grand Anvil Chorus

White Man's Pipe

The Artillery of Heaven

An Instinct for Direction

One People

The Woman's Exponent

Walking Gold Pieces

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How do you like Nebraska?


A Wound in the Heart

THE WEST The Grandest Enterprise Under God

A Wound in the Heart

T.H. Watkins"If you were looking for the definitive symbol of the conflict between the cultures that had existed in the American West for at least ten thousand years, and maybe longer, and the culture that was just a building East of the Mississippi River, this culture of technology, of commerce, of grasping after tomorrow before it arrives, you couldn't come up with two more powerful symbols than the Railroad, and the Buffalo, because when the Railroad met the Buffalo, the Iron Age met the Stone Age, the machine arrived in the garden, and the West was changed for ever."
T. H. Watkins

There was a man who killed a buffalo bull to no purpose.
Only he wanted its blood on his hands.
It was a great, old noble beast and it was a long time blowing its life away.
On the edge of the night,
the people gathered themselves up in their grief and shame.
Away in the West, they could see the hump and spine of the huge beast which lay dying along the edge of the world.
They could see its bright blood run into the sky where it dried, darkening, and was at last flecked with flakes of light.
N. Scott Momaday

Buffalo Slaughtered on the PlainThe thing we had to have, we businessmen with rifles, was one shot kills. We based our success on... the overwhelming stupidity of the buffalo, unquestionably the stupidest game animal in the world... If you wounded the leader... the rest of her herd, whether it was three or thirty, would gather around her and stupidly "mill" ... All you had to do... was pick them off one by one... I once took 269 hides with 300 cartridges. Adventurous? No more than shooting a beef critter in the barnyard... It was a harvest. We were the harvesters.
Frank H. Mayer

Frank Mayer and thousands of other buffalo hunters swarmed onto the plains. Some stopped shooting just long enough to cool their over-heated rifle barrels with canteens of water. When the water ran out, they urinated down the barrel and kept shooting.

Buffalo Skulls Grounded up for FertilizerUp and down the plains those men ranged... Behind them came the skinners with their wagons. They piled the hides and bones into the wagons until they were full, and then took their loads to the new railroad stations... to be shipped east to market. Sometimes there would be a pile of bones as high as a man, stretching a mile along the railroad track.
Old Lady Horse

Thirty-two million pounds of buffalo bones made their way from the plains to eastern factories, where they were ground into fertilizer. Buffalo horns were turned into buttons, combs, knife handles. Hooves became glue. All across western Kansas, the slaughter went on -- perhaps as many as three million buffalo killed in the two years since the coming of the railroad.

Where there were myriads of buffalo the year before, there were now myriads of carcasses. The air was foul with a sickening stench, and the vast plain, which only a short twelvemonth before teemed with animal life, was a dead, solitary, putrid desert.
Col. Richard Irving Dodge

Many Americans grew alarmed at the extent of the slaughter. In the Spring of 1874, Congress passed a law to protect the buffalo. But President Ulysses S. Grant refused to sign it, and the killing continued. Hunters had already moved south of Kansas, onto hunting grounds reserved by treaty for the Indians. The government did nothing to stop them, and even provided the hunters with free ammunition.

Buffalo Running in the SnowYou white people make a big talk, and sometimes war, if an Indian kills a white man's ox to keep his wife and children from starving. What do you think my people ought to say and do when they themselves see their buffalo killed by your race when you are not hungry?
Little Robe

The Indians sensed... that we were taking away their birthright and that with every boom of a buffalo rifle their tenure on their homeland became weakened and that eventually they would have no homeland and no buffalo. So they did what you and I would do if our existence were jeopardized: they fought.
Frank H. Mayer

In the summer of 1874, the Kiowas, Comanches, Arapahos and southern Cheyenne rose up and drove out the hunters -- and any other whites they came across. General Philip Sheridan ordered a massive campaign, deploying five columns of troops to pursue the Indians relentlessly during the summer and fall, depriving them of rest, or the opportunity to hunt. By the next spring, virtually all of the resisting bands on the southern Plains -- desperate now for food -- had been driven back onto the reservations.

The buffalo hunters went right back to work. Within a year, the herd on the southern plains had virtually disappeared.

Empty Buffalo PlainsOne by one we put up our buffalo rifles... left the ranges. And there settled over them a vast quiet... The buffalo was gone... Maybe we served our purpose in helping abolish the buffalo; maybe it was our ruthless harvesting of him which telescoped the control of the Indian by a decade or maybe more. Or maybe I am just rationalizing. Maybe we were just a greedy lot who wanted to get ours, and to hell with posterity, the buffalo, or anyone else, just so we kept our scalps on and our money pouches filled. I think maybe that is the way it was.
Frank H. Mayer

N. Scott Momaday"It would be hard to imagine anything more deeply hurtful than the loss of something ineffably sacred. One can only guess and imagine. We can't know what that is now. But certainly confusion, first of all, I suppose. Why is this happening? Why are you killing the buffalo? We do that, of course, but we do it in order to survive and we do it in a sacred manner. But this wholesale slaughter must have been first confusing, and then -- you know -- a devastation. A wound in the heart that we cannot conceive of now."
N. Scott Momaday

Buffalo HerdBuffaloThe buffalo saw that their day was over. They could protect their people no longer. Sadly, the last remnant of the great herd gathered in council, and decided what they would do. One young woman got up very early... and... peering through the haze, she saw the last buffalo herd appear like in a spirit dream. Straight to Mount Scott the leader of the herd walked. Behind him came the cows and their calves, and the few young males who had survived. As the woman watched, the face of the mountain opened. Inside Mount Scott the world was green and fresh, as it had been when she was a small girl. The rivers ran clear, not red. Into this world of beauty the buffalo walked, never to be seen again.
Old Lady Horse

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