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The Industrial Expansion West and Its Impact | The American Buffalo |

Published on 04/02/24 / In Documentaries

Americans set out with renewed energy to unite the East and West after the Civil War. They built railroads to span the continent, opening up vast areas for homesteaders and connecting distant metropolitan markets for crops and cattle. Lots of technologies moved into the Great Plains during this time, and most of them had a negative impact on the environment, bison and Native people living there.This program is made possible by viewers like you.

More about THE AMERICAN BUFFALOFor thousands of generations, buffalo (species bison bison) have evolved alongside Indigenous people who relied on them for food and shelter, and, in exchange for killing them, revered the animal. The stories of Native people anchor the series, including the Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne of the Southern Plains; the Lakota, Salish, Kootenai, Mandan-Hidatsa, and Blackfeet from the Northern Plains; and others.Numbering an estimated 30 million in the early 1800s, the herds began declining for a variety of reasons, including the lucrative buffalo robe trade, the steady westward settlement of an expanding United States, diseases introduced by domestic cattle, and drought. But the arrival of the railroads in the early 1870s, and a new demand for buffalo hides to be used in the belts driving industrial machines back East, brought thousands of hide hunters to the Great Plains. In just over a decade the number of bison collapsed from 12-15 million to fewer than a thousand, representing one of the most dramatic examples of our ability to destroy the natural world. By 1900, the American buffalo teetered on the brink of disappearing forever, and Native people of the Plains entered one of the most traumatic moments of their existence.

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