The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 33, July 1929 - April, 1930 Page: 41
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The Significance of the Destruction of the Buffalo
thousands of them for their hides to be used as a medium of
exchange. In fact, fifty years before the white people had made
any serious attempts to settle the plains country, the Indians of
the Upper Missouri region were selling vast numbers of hides each
year, or exchanging them for guns, ammunition, etc. They would
often exchange fine dressed robes for a pint of whisky, or "fire-
water," thus not only cheating themselves in the trade, but in
doing so acquiring a habit which was one of the deadliest enemies
of the red men.2"
Concerning this trade, General John C. Fremont, in 1845, pub-
lished some statistics furnished him by a member of the American
Fur Company in which it was stated that the sales of hides on the
Upper Missouri had been 90,000 annually for the previous ten
years.26 Since the hides were taken during only four months of
each year, as they were good for robes only during this period, a
government zologist estimated that the annual slaughter in this
region by the savages alone would have totaled 120,000, or 1,200,000
for the ten-year period. This, of course, did not include those
slaughtered in the Southwest, since it was too far from the land
of the Comanche, Kiowa and Apache tribes to the fur-trading posts
on the tributaries of the Missouri River to stimulate trade. It was
the opinion of Professor Baird, an eminent authority, that the
Indians slaughtered more than 500,000 bisons each year,29 which,
from 1835 to 184-5, would have totalled 5,000,000 animals.
Just when the slaughter of the buffaloes on a large scale by the
whites began would be hard to say. Josiah Gregg, in 1835, referred
to the reckless slaughter of the bisons and stated that it might be
well to take precautions to protect them.80 W. B. Parker, who
accompanied R. B. Marcy on a reconnoissance through Texas in
1854, also said that "this animal is rapidly disappearing from the
plains,"31 and Marcy himself stated that "the multitudes of these
27George Catlin, North American Indians, II, plates cvii-cxiii. Catlin,
in connection with this point, shows how the savage was usually cheated
in such transactions.
'J. A. Allen, History of the American Bison, 561-562.
"United States Patent Ofice Report, "Agriculture," 1851-1852, Part II,
"sJosiah Gregg, Commerce of the Prairies, 11I, 213.
81W. B. Parker, Notes Taken During the Expedition Commanded by R. B.
Marcy, U. S. A., Through Unexplored Tewas in the Summer and Fall of
1854, pp. 101-102.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 33, July 1929 - April, 1930, periodical, 1930; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101090/m1/49/: accessed September 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.