The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 174
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
ated the southern Kansas herds on which the Cheyennes and Arapahos
subsisted. By 1873 the buffalo hunters were making continuous raids on
the herds south of the Arkansas River. The Indians, now fighting within
their own territory, became less and less capable of fending off the ever-
increasing tide of buffalo poachers.'
The army was supposed to be patrolling the Kansas-Indian Territory
boundary to see that nobody crossed but chose to look the other way.
Gen. Philip Sheridan wanted to quickly reduce the buffalo population so
as to terminate the Indians' hunting rights. Sheridan left no doubt that
he wanted the buffalo exterminated when, in 1881, the federal govern-
ment was considering protecting what was left of the herds. He vigorous-
ly opposed such action. "If I could learn that every buffalo in the north-
ern herd were killed I would be glad," the general wrote his superiors.
"The destruction of this herd would do more to keep Indians quiet than
anything else that could happen. Since the destruction of the southern
herd, which formerly roamed from Texas to the Platte, the Indians in that
section have given us no trouble."8
By 1873 the buffalo hunters had decimated the buffalo herds as far
south as the Canadian River in the Texas Panhandle. This meant that the
Indians had lost all control over what had been the reservation given
them at Medicine Lodge, and they began to panic over the juggernaut of
buffalo hunters that were so rapidly destroying their very means of sur-
vival. With no major retaliation yet inflicted by the Indians, the buffalo
hunters began to make plans for the 1874 hunt on the Canadian. By now
it was obvious to the hunters, and to the Indians, that the army had no in-
tention of stopping the former from crossing into the Indian territories.
As far as the Indians were concerned, all the buffalo south of the Arkansas
River were theirs. With the buffalo hunters having already devastated the
herds north of the Canadian, the heat for revenge among the Indians was
high. The presence of white hunters among the last herds of buffalo on
the Southern Plains would likely touch off a war with the Indians, but the
buffalo hunters were apparently willing to risk it.
In the spring of 1874, the buffalo hunters who had waited out the win-
ter in Dodge City decided it was time to move south in force. The gener-
7James L. Haley, The Buffalo War The Hzstory of the Red Raver Indzan Upriszng of 1874 (New York:
Doubleday, 1976), 24.
8 Sheridan to Adjutant General, Oct. 13, 1881, Box 29, Sheridan Papers (National Archives);
John R. Cook, himself a buffalo hunter in the 187os, left an account of an 1875 message from
Sheridan to the Texas state legislature that expressed the military's attitude toward the destruction
of the great buffalo herds. The legislature was considering a bill to protect the buffalo, which
Sheridan protested. "Instead of outlawing the slaughter," declared Sheridan, "the legislature
should strike a medal, with a dead buffalo pictured on one side and a discouraged Indian on the
other, and bestow it upon the hunters "John R. Cook, The Border and the Buffalo: An Untold Story of
the Southwest Plains (Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Co., 1907), 163-164.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/226/: accessed March 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.