Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xvi

This is a short, simple book about a complicated slice of history. It is the story of the relationship between human beings and buffalo. The subject has been dealt with in hundreds of books and scientific papers by noted scholars; some of those sources are listed in the bibliography. Though much of what I have included in this volume came from those sources, I am not an academic. I am a buffalo rancher, a storyteller, and a citizen of the Great Plains....

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Chapter One. The Great Plains: The Lay of the Land

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pp. 1-14

When Americans dream there is an enormous blue sky and grasslands rolling to a distant horizon. There is a steady breeze bringing the scent of possibilities. There are no restraints, no boundaries, and no limits. When Americans dream, we dream like buffalo. It is as if we can stand in their skins, stare with their beguiling dark eyes, and let the rare prairie rains drip benignly from our noble goatees. We imagine ourselves as country boys...

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Chapter Two. Invasion: The First Wave

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pp. 15-25

Early varieties of buffalo were on the North American continent long before human beings crossed the temporary land bridge over the Bering Strait. Modern plains buffalo evolved from these early versions when humans were still a very rare species on the continent, but in a sense, our species developed together. Humans exerted some of the evolutionary pressure that made the buffalo the animal that Europeans found when they came...

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Chapter Three. Cleansing the Land: Killing the Buffalo on the Central and Southern Plains

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pp. 26-36

Even before North America was severed from Asia the ancestors of modern buffalo were pursued by men. Buffalo might not have understood how dangerous humans would one day become, but they usually avoided the clumsy, low- tech men who occasionally ambushed them with clubs and spears. They did not yet have the mobility to hunt buffalo effectively. The famous “wild” horses of the American West were far in the...

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Chapter Four. The Empty Land: The Slaughter Moves North

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pp. 37-64

In the mid- 1800s Mormons began to move from all over the eastern part of America, and even Europe, toward the Great Salt Lake in what became Utah Territory. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had awarded the territory to America after the Mexican- American War. The Mormons were early travelers along the Platte River where the transcontinental railroad would soon be built. The disturbance caused by commerce...

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Chapter Five. The Old Switcheroo: The Second Wave

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pp. 65-74

After the last ghost dance there was a period of years when the domain of the buffalo fell silent. There was no pounding of buffalo herds moving from one river drainage to the next. No roaring during mating season. No clouds of dust from buffalo wallowing in the heat of summer. Of course the westward wave of Euro- Americans continued, gaining speed— washing over the plains. In a matter of a few decades, much of the life within...

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Chapter Six. Penning the Prairie: The Third Wave

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pp. 75-81

There are no reports of any buffalo dying during the winter of 1888, but by then there were barely enough left to notice. The tough old stragglers could dig down through the ice and snow to find enough forage to survive. If not, they likely moved away from the terrible winter. They might have moved hundreds of miles before they found a place to winter safely. They were a super race of buffalo who had been honed by...

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Chapter Seven. The Unintended Consequences of Technology: The Fourth Wave

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pp. 82-94

Even before World War I, buffalo were effectively out of the picture in America. That war, and the one that followed twenty years later, intensified the pressure to create on the Great Plains a future that was radically different from the past that had served humans for tens of thousands of years. This new vision did not include buffalo. The difference between the past and the future visions of the Great Plains was wrapped up in the...

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Chapter Eight. The Resistance: Creeping Back from the Shadows

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pp. 95-108

Though there are some who question the story, the man who appears to have been the first to do something concrete about the looming loss of buffalo as a species was, perhaps predictably, an Indian. His name was Samuel Walking Coyote and he was from the Pend d’Oreille tribe of the Pacific Northwest. Apparently Walking Coyote, as his name suggests, was a traveling man. By 1872 he had migrated east to the land of the Flathead Indians...

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Chapter Nine. Legacy: Lessons from the Buffalo

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pp. 109-116

The buffalo of the Great Plains have shown us that single- species conservation is no real conservation at all. One species can’t be separated from the myriad species that make up an ecosystem without significantly changing that ecosystem. The removal of any species sends shockwaves through the entire ecosystem. Sometimes those shockwaves are subtle and hardly noticed. At other times the effects of an extinction are blatantly obvious, with...

Appendix: Where to Find Buffalo on the Great Plains

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pp. 117-118

Bibliography

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pp. 119-120

Index

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pp. 121-126