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Kiowa - And the Bison

Kiowa life revolved around the bison. The herds were the key to life on the open plains, and no other animal commanded as much respect from the tribe as the bison. The tribe’s food, shelter, weapons, tools, clothes, and medicines were all made from bison. They were also the focus of religious and social practices. The tribe was absolutely dependent on the bison, such that the future of the bison dictated the future of the tribe.

The plains were covered in grass or scrub brush, and so the tribe’s subsistence came from hunting. Hunts were sometimes carried out by individuals but were often a collective endeavor. Collective hunting involved all the men of a village or band. A large group of men ran at a herd, making loud noises to scare the herd over or against a cliff, making them easier to kill. Sometimes the hunters would burn the prairie grasses in a circle around a grazing herd. The bison would trample one another in a panic or would suffocate in the smoke. Another technique involved slowly sneaking up on a herd while wearing a wolf pelt and shooting the bison with arrows or stabbing them with lances. Once horses were acquired, hunting was a less dangerous activity for the hunters. With the aid of horses, it was easy for a group of mounted Kiowa to target and separate an individual from a herd and kill it from the safety of horseback.

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Entry: Kiowa - And the Bison

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: September 2015

Date Modified: December 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.