NEBRASKAland June 2016

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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lthough the native peoples of the Great Plains had slain buffalo (bison) for generations to provide themselves with food, shelter, clothing and other useful products, the great herds' rapid demise began in the 1870s with the advent of commercial "hide hunters." As the nation became industrialized, buffalo hides were in demand for the manufacture of factory machine belting, boots, winter coats and many other leather products. This demand was met by professional hunters armed with large caliber, breech-loading rifles, who could kill scores of buffalo in a day, taking only the hides and perhaps the tongue, leaving the rest of the carcass to rot on the prairie. Military and political leaders encouraged depletion of the herds as a means of forcing the Plains Indian tribes to abandon their nomadic, buffalo-dependent lifestyle and settle on designated reservations under government supervision. The Indians' former hunting grounds would then be available for occupation by an ever-increasing tide of white settlers moving west. They would also be available for the great herds of domestic cattle that would soon dominate the grasslands. By the mid-1880s, the buffalo in their millions had been virtually exterminated from the Plains, leaving only a few hundred survivors in Yellowstone National Park and other remote regions. The slaughter of the buffalo left the prairie marked by millions of tons of their bones, the skeletal remains of an entire species. Settlers wanting to augment their meager cash incomes sometimes collected and sold these bones, which were usually ground for use as fertilizer. Harry B. Harlan, born on a farm near Waverly, Nebraska, in 1874, recalled gathering buffalo bones with family members during the summer of 1880 in Furnas County: "That first summer I remember going with Uncle Allen and his team and wagon with side-boards on, to gather a load of buffalo bones. In those days money was scarce, and a dollar looked as big as a wagon wheel to the settlers. A man was glad to work all day for a dollar. Some one in Arapahoe A Brief History Buffalo Bones Once Plentiful on Nebraska Prairie By Patricia C. Gaster and James E. Potter Nebraska State Historical Society A Buffalo bones piled at Fort Totten, Dakota Territory, in 1885. 12 NEBRASKAland • JUNE 2016 NSHS, RG1204-3-1 alo bones with family members during the 80 in Furnas County: ummer I ng with nd his on with n, to of In ney was dollar as a wagon ettlers. A man ork all day for one in Arapahoe

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