wild-and-free-1

They Once Roamed ‘Wild & Free’

Posted on October 31, 2013

Our buffalo skull neckpiece has been intricately carved by hand from naturally shed deer antler. It was designed to honor and respect the majestic and fearless beast that once roamed plentiful, wild and free on the vast plains of North America.

Considered a life-force for Native American people and a gift from the Great Spirit, this sacred and symbolic animal represents: wisdom, patience, prosperity, gratitude, abundance, strength, stability, consistency and blessing.

The buffalo teaches us to remain well grounded, find strength to carry on our path, to be in harmony with Mother Earth and to connect with the sacredness of life.

 

HISTORICAL IMAGE REFERENCE:
No. 1 - Two hunters inspect their kill circa 1903.
No. 2 - Native American tribesmen, circa 1907.
No. 3 - Men pose with a mountain of buffalo skulls, circa mid-1870s.
No. 4 - Wright's buffalo hide yard, Dodge City, Kansas, circa 1878.
No. 5 - Moose Jaw, circa 1870s, a pile of bison bones waiting to be loaded onto a train for distribution.

GENERAL HISTORY:

Buffalo, also referred to as bison, once ruled the North American plains from Canada down to Mexico and reigned supreme over their territory. They were believed to have been the biggest population of large wild mammals anywhere on Earth numbering a staggering estimated 50 million before European settlers arrived. Awestruck witnesses reported seeing ‘seas of black’, and feeling the ground trembling beneath their feet with the beat of literally millions of pounding hooves.

Where they once roamed wild and free, the landscape of the West dramatically changed when they were tragically hunted to near extinction during the 19th century. By the mid 1880s these majestic beasts were reduced to only few hundred, and it is estimated an astonishing 7.5 million buffalo were killed in a two year period from 1872 to 1874 alone, thus bringing an end to an important era in American history.

Some say it was the decade starting from 1874 that the butchery was at its most extreme. A major contributing factor was the building of continental railways in both Canada and the United States. These long-haul trips made it easy to reach buffalo herds further and further out in the plains. The hunting became so prevalent that both travellers and commercial hunters would shoot bison from windows or roofs of trains in the Midwest.

With the market for bison hides a booming industry during this time, massive shipments were being exported to Europe regularly. The majority of buffalo were killed for their hides alone, and the principal buyers of these hides were the steam-powered industrial factories of the time, who valued the durable quality of the leather and utilized them for use as machine belts.  After hides, the next most valuable commodity to be gained from the slaughter of buffalo was their bones which were used in the manufacture of bone china, buttons, glue and fertilizer among other things. A bone seller could earn anywhere between $2.50 and $15.00 a ton, and it’s estimated the state of Kansas alone made a staggering 2.5 million dollars from the sale of bison bones between 1868 and 1881.

GOVERNMENT STRATEGY:

Perhaps the most shocking fact about the near extinction of the American bison is that it appears to have been an intentional and high-level strategic move by the federal government of the time.   The US Army sanctioned and actively endorsed the wholesale slaughter of bison herds whilst the federal government promoted it.  Scholars believe the prime motivation of the government and military was to remove the primary food source of the Native Americans.

This slaughter of buffalo herds facilitated the genocide of Native Americans. Without their primary source of sustenance Native American Indians could not survive, their population would weaken, and the people of the plains were forced to either leave the land or starve to death.  Without the Indians, European settlers were free to claim their land for themselves.

BUFFALO & THE NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE:

At the core of Native American Indian culture is the buffalo. For thousands of years the lives of these nomadic people were spiritually and physically interconnected. Their entire existence centered around the buffalo’s epic migration. As herds of buffalo roamed bountiful, wild and free across the vast North American plains, the Indians followed. The location of their camps and length of time spent at each was almost solely determined by the buffalo herd.

The Native American Indians had a symbiotic relationship with the buffalo and always honored the mighty beasts for the many blessings they provided. These magnificent animals were ‘givers of life’ and regarded as a gift of the Great Spirit. Whenever one was killed its sacrifice was honored as a blessing.

Buffalo played an important role not only in their culture but also in their very survival.  The availability of buffalo was their lifeline. The bison provided an endless supply of necessities, and every single part of the animal served a purpose. The blood, milk, meat, marrow, organs, testicles, nipples and everything down to the nose gristle were eaten.  What wasn’t consumed was used in other ways. Horns were made into arrows, utensils, drinking vessels and ground up to make medicines. Bones became arrowheads, splints, shovels, spear handles, knives, pipes, winter sleds and war clubs. Candles and soap were made from the fat, while the muscles of the animals became glue and thread. The tails were used as whips and fly brushes, and the hair became moccasin lining and was employed to make ropes. The bladder could be turned into a medicine bag or pouch, while the hooves were boiled down into glue. The hides were used to make everything from clothing, teepee covers, blankets and drums, to saddles and snowshoes. The hump of the buffalo made shields, skulls were used in religious ceremonies and brains were used as hide tanner. Absolutely nothing went to waste.

Tragically, the loss of millions of buffalo meant a heartbreaking end to the way of life practiced for thousands of years by Native American Indians who depended so much on this once plentiful animal.

 

DIMENSIONS:
One size.
Length from back of neck to top of pendant: 42.5cm
Length of pendant: 4.5cm
Width of pendant at its widest point: 5cm
AUD $119
PLEASE NOTE:
- Due to the hand-carved nature of this pendant, size may vary slightly to the above measurements.
- Colour variances of this product will occur due to the nature of the antler bone.
- Deer naturally shed their antlers, when purchasing antlers for production of this and other pieces, we ensure we utilise the whole antler by carving miniature skulls that we incorporate into many of our one-off pieces.
- We have chosen to use an iron chain coated in brass for greater strength and durability.
- Our chain is designed to discolour over time; we do not consider this discolouration to be a design fault.
- We do not recommend our chains to be worn in either salt or natural water.
 

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