Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of LifeHome

Click on the four images to learn about the importance of the buffalo today.

How we Lived with the Buffalo

Today we see iinii (buffalo) only in National Parks or on ranches. Sometimes we buy buffalo meat at the store.

In the past, the buffalo gave our people food, clothing, and shelter. During most of the year we looked for isolated groups and shot one or two animals. In the early autumn, when we began preparing for winter, we killed a large number of buffalo, dried the meat and made mookimaani (pemmican — dry meat, berries, and fat mixed together). We used a pisskan, or buffalo jump, to trap the animals. Join us and learn how we lived with the buffalo.

Read the story about the buffalo calling stone to learn more.

There were many people and steps involved in a successful pisskan (buffalo jump).


Roaming buffalosBuffalo

We knew that buffalo were social animals because they liked to live together in herds. We knew they followed one leader, and that they were wary of unfamiliar or unusual things. Our hunters used this knowledge when they lured a buffalo herd toward a pisskan, or buffalo jump.

Buffalo Hunters

We watched carefully all of the animals in our world and learned how they behaved. This helped us develop our hunting methods. We also had help from the spirits of the animals who told us how to show proper respect so the animals would be willing to give themselves to us.

Head-Smashed In Buffalo Jump; Women's JumpPisskan (Buffalo Jump)

Any steep cliff could be used as a pisskan (buffalo jump). Buffalo have a very good sense of smell and the wind in our country usually blows from the west. We looked for cliffs that faced eastward so the buffalo could not smell our camp.

Our Campsite

We looked for places with a good supply of water and wood. Processing buffalo meat and hides is a lot of work. We need fuel for fires and water to wash the hides and to boil the bones. If we couldn't find wood we used buffalo chips for fuel.

Buffalo Jump

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