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Field Division of Education
History of Glacier National Park
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Decline of the Buffalo

The willingness of the Blackfoot to accept a treaty was in part connected with the rapid disappearance of the buffalo. The process of extermination which had been going on in the United States was being repeated in Canada, although on a smaller scale. In Canada the slaughter was chiefly carried out at first by the Red River Hunters. These were a curious group of half breeds, neither white nor Indian, who had established settlements in the Red River Valley. Excluded from consideration by the Indian tribes, they were white in their sympathies and contacts but Indian in their government and mode of life to a very large degree.

The Red River Hunters in 1820 had sent out five hundred and forty buffalo carts, the famous two-wheeled Red River carts. In 1840 one thousand two hundred and ten carts were sent out. Each year they roamed further and further westward as the buffalo diminished. In 1870 American hunters cut the herds in two, the northern herd roaming the region between the Missouri and the Saskatchewan. From this time on the slaughter became intensive. Yet in 1874 enormous herds still existed. The boundary survey parties of that year and the following year were often delayed for hours by the buffalo.

After the coming of the Mounted Police, some effort was made to keep track of the slaughter of the buffalo. Figures only exist on those hides on which duty was collected when exported to the United States, and it is certain that these were a small part of the whole. They give a dramatic idea, however, of the rapidity of the decline of the buffalo in the late seventies.

Fort McCleodFort Walsh

In 1882 the last herd of about four hundred buffalo was killed near Wood Mountain. In 1888 the Game Report states only six buffalo were still in existence in Canada.

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