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Our Campsite - Work at the Pisskan

How We Lived with the Buffalo

Our Campsite

Work at the Pisskan (Buffalo Jump)

We had to work quickly to skin and butcher the animals, and to process the meat and bones. This was hard work and everyone helped.

Butchering and Drying Meat

I worked with my sisters, cutting the meat into thin strips and hanging it on wooden frames. We arranged our travois to make these racks. The sun quickly dried the meat.
Butchering and Drying Meat

Gerald Tailfeathers, Winter Meat, 1960, Collection of Glenbow Museum; Camp of Piegan (USA), Montana, meat drying on racks, ca. 1890s, Glenbow Archives NA-1463-51 Blood woman drying meat, ca.1920s, Glenbow Archives NA-879-5

more images

Gerald Tailfeathers,
Winter Meat,
Collection of Glenbow Museum

Glenbow Archives NA-879-5

Glenbow Archives NA-1463-51

Cutting Hides

My family worked quickly, cutting the heavy hides from the carcasses. We were careful not to make the hide too thin or to slice holes through them. If we did, the hides would rip when we spread them out and scraped away the hair and fat.

Preparing hides is very time consuming. We usually didn't have time to work at this during a pisskan (buffalo jump).
Cutting Hides

 Blood woman tanning hide at Blood reserve, 1931, T. Reiss, Glenbow Archives NA-5425-137; Blood woman, southern Alberta, treating hide, 1904, Glenbow Archives NA-2313-16

Glenbow Archives NA-5425-137

Glenbow Archives NA-2313-16

Boiling Bones

The big leg bones have lots of fat in them. This fat is a very important part of our mookimaani (pemmican — dry meat, berries, and fat mixed together) and gives us lots of energy in the cold months.

To get this fat, we boiled the bones. We did this by digging holes about two feet deep and three feet across. We lined these pits with buffalo stomachs and filled them with water. The stomachs kept the water from draining away. We put rocks in a fire and when they were hot we carried them to the pits and placed them in the water. The heat from the rocks made the water boil and the grease warmed up and flowed out of the bones. We skimmed the fat from the surface of the water in the pit.
Boiling Bones


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