The Buffalo Go
A Kiowa Legend
Everything the Kiowas had come from the buffalo. Their tipi's were made of buffalo hides; so were their clothes and moccasins. They ate buffalo meat. Their containers were made of hide, bladders, or stomachs. The buffalo were the life of the Kiowas.
Most of all, the buffalo was part of the Kiowa religion. A white buffalo calf must be sacrificed in the sun dance. The priests used parts of the buffalo to make their prayers when they healed people or when they sang to the powers above.
So when the white men wanted to build railroads, or when they wanted to farm and raise cattle, the buffalo still protected the Kiowas. They tore up the railroad tracks and the gardens. They chased the cattle off the ranges. The buffalo loved their people as much as the Kiowas loved them.
There was war between the buffalo and the white men. The white men built forts in the Kiowa country, and the woolly-headed buffalo soldiers (the Tenth Cavalry, made up of Negro troops) shot the buffalo as fast as they could, but the buffalo still kept coming on, coming on, even into the post cemetery at Fort Sill. Soldiers were not enough to hold them back.
Then the white men hired hunters to do nothing but kill the buffalo. Up and down the plains those men ranged, shooting sometimes as many as a hundred buffalo a day. Behind them came the skinners with their wagons. They piled the hides and bones into the wagons until they were full, and then took their loads to the new railroad stations that were being built, to be shipped east to the market. Sometimes there would be a pile of bones as high as a man, stretching a mile along the railroad track.
The buffalo saw that their day was over. They could protect their people no longer. Sadly, the last remnant of the great herd gathered in council, and decided what they would do.
The Kiowas were camped on the north side of Mount Scott, those of them who were still free to camp. One young woman got up very early in the morning. The dawn mist was still rising from Medicine Creek, and as she looked across the water, peering through the haze, she saw the last buffalo herd appear like a spirit dream.
Straight to Mount Scott the leader of the herd walked. Behind him came the cows and their calves, and the few young males who had survived. As the woman watched, the face of the mountain opened.
Inside Mount Scott the world was green and fresh, as it had been when she was a small girl. The rivers ran clear, not red. The wild plains were in blossom, chasing the red buds up the inside slopes.
Into this world of beauty the buffalo walked, never to be seen again.
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