History

Study Notes

The Extermination of the Buffalo

Level:
GCSE
Board:
Edexcel

By 1883 nearly every single buffalo on the Great Plains had been killed. In 1840, there was en estimated 35 million buffalo on the plains. By 1890, there were less than 1,000. The extermination of the buffalo had a huge impact on the Plains Indian’s way of life as the buffalo played such a pivotal role in their culture. 

By 1883 nearly every single buffalo on the Great Plains had been killed. In 1840, there was en estimated 35 million buffalo on the plains. By 1890, there were less than 1,000. The extermination of the buffalo had a huge impact on the Plains Indian’s way of life as the buffalo played such a pivotal role in their culture. Below are reasons for the extermination of the buffalo:

 

Economic

In 1871, a process to turn buffalo skin into leather suitable for US industrial machines was discovered. People rushed to kill as many buffalo as possible to sell their hides. The railroads made it easy to transport buffalo skins back to the city to sell. White hunters usually just discarded the rest of the buffalo, leaving it to rot. Plains Indians found this highly disrespectful.

 

Government policy

Exterminating the buffalo was convenient for the US government as it forced Plains Indians to become more like white settlers. Without the buffalo, Plains Indians had no reason to live a nomadic lifestyle. This made it easier for the US government to confine Plains Indians into small reservations. Additionally, the buffalo was the Plains Indians main food source. Once they had been exterminated, Plains Indians were forced to learn how to farm effectively or they would starve. The extinction of buffalo also freed up more space for white settlers to farm.

Boston House,
214 High Street,
Boston Spa,
West Yorkshire,
LS23 6AD

Tel: +44 0844 800 0085

© 2021 Tutor2u Limited. Company Reg no: 04489574. VAT reg no 816865400.