Study Notes

The American West (c1835-c1895): The Importance of the Buffalo


Last updated 15 Jul 2024

The buffalo were incredibly important to the Plains Indians; their way of life and survival depended on them. Since there were so few resources on the Great Plains, the Plains Indians developed skills to use as much as the buffalo as possible.

Below is a list of how the Plain’s Indians used different parts of the buffalo:

  • Horns - arrows, cups, and spoons
  • Fat - cooking, hair grease, soap
  • Fur - clothes, stuffing, mittens
  • Tanned hide - bags, blankets, clothes, toys, saddles
  • Rawhide - bags, belts, lashings, shields
  • Tail - ornament, whips, fly swats
  • Bladder - food bag
  • Tendons - bowstring of an arrow, thread
  • Dung - fuel and to smoke
  • Bones – arrows, dice, jewellery, knives, needles, shovels, tools
  • Gall – to make paint
  • Liver - food
  • Intensities - buckets, cooking pots
  • Hooves – glue, toys, tools
  • Tongue - hairbrush, sometimes eaten raw
  • Brain - tanning the hides
  • Skull – used in religious ceremonies
  • Heart - cut from the body and left on the ground as a sign of respect

This list demonstrates how essential the buffalo were to the Plains Indians. Anything that affected the buffalo, or Plains Indians access to the buffalo, therefore had a massive impact on the Plains Indian’s way of life.

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