1	          December 1993
     3	     Buffalo Migrations and the Buffalo Hunt in the
     4	     Assinniboine and Saskatchewan Territory
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     8	          Extract from the Assinniboine and
     9	          Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition of 1858.
    11	     The ranges of the buffalo in the north-western prairies are
    12	still maintained with great exactness, and old hunters, if the
    13	plains have not been burnt, can generally tell the direction in
    14	which herds will be found at certain seasons of the year.  If the
    15	plains have been extensively burnt in the autumn, the search for
    16	the main herds during the following spring must depend on the
    17	course the fires have taken.
    18	     Red River hunters recognized two grand divisions of buffalo,
    19	those of the Grand Coteau and Red River, and those of the
    20	Saskatchewan.  Other ranges of immense herds exist beyond the
    21	Missouri towards the south, as far as Texas and Mexico.  The
    22	north-western buffalo ranges are as follow.  The bands belonging
    23	to the Red River Range winter on the Little Souris, and south-
    24	easterly towards and beyond Devil's Lake, and thence on to Red
    25	River and the Shayenne.  Here too, they are found in the spring. 
    26	Their course then lies west towards the Grand Coteau de Missouri,
    27	until the month of June, when they turn north, and revisit the
    28	Little Souris from the west winding round the west flank of
    29	Turtle Mountain to Devil's Lake, and by the main river (Red
    30	River), to the Shayenne again.  In the memory of many Red River
    31	hunters, the buffalo were accustomed to visit the prairies of the
    32	Assinniboine as far north as Lake Manitobah, where in fact their
    33	skulls and bones are now to be seen;  their skulls are also seen
    34	on the east side of the Red River of the north, in Minnesota, but
    35	the living animal is very rarely to be met with. A few years ago
    36	they were accustomed to pass on the east side of Turtle Mountain
    37	through the Blue Hills of the Souris, but of late years their
    38	wanderings in this direction have ceased; experience teaching
    39	them that their enemies, the half-breeds, have approached too
    40	near their haunts in that direction.
    41	     The country about the west side of Turtle Mountain in June
    42	1858 was scored with their tracks at one of the crossing places
    43	on the Little Souris, as if deep parallel ruts had been
    44	artificially cut down the hill-sides.  These ruts, often one foot
    45	deep and sixteen inches broad, would converge from the prairie
    46	for many miles to a favourite crossing or drinking place; and
    47	they are often seen in regions in which the buffalo is no longer
    48	a visitor.
    49	     The great western herds winter between the south and north
    50	branches of the Saskatchewan, south of the Touchwood Hills, and
    51	beyond the north Saskatchewan in the valley of the Athabaska;
    52	they cross the South Branch in June and July, visit the prairies
    53	on the south side of the Touchwood Hill range, and cross the
    54	Qu'appelle valley anywhere between the Elbow of the South Branch
    55	and a few miles west of Fort Ellice on the Assinniboine. They
    56	then strike for the Grand Coteau de Missouri, and their eastern
    57	flank often approaches the Red River herds coming north from the
    58	Grand Coteau. They then proceed across the Missouri up the Yellow
    59	Stone, and return to the Saskatchewan and Athabaska as winter
    60	approaches, by the flanks of the Rocky Mountains. We saw many
    61	small herds, belonging to the western bands, cross the Qu'appelle
    62	valley, and proceed in single file towards the Grand Coteau in
    63	July 1858.  The eastern bands, which we had expected to find on
    64	the Little Souris, were on the main river (Red River is so termed
    65	by the half-breeds hunting in this quarter). They had proceeded
    66	early thither, far to the south of their usual track, in
    67	consequence of the devastating fires which swept the plains from
    68	the Rocky Mountains to Red River in the autumn of 1857. We met
    69	bulls all moving south, when approaching Fort Ellice; they had
    70	come from their winter quarters near the Touchwood Hill range. 
    71	As a general rule the Saskatchewan bands of buffalo go north
    72	during the autumn, and south during the summer. The Little Souris
    73	and main river bands, go north-west in summer and south-east in
    74	autumn.  It is almost needless to remark again that fires
    75	interfere with this systematic migration, but there are no
    76	impediments which will divert the buffalo from their course. The
    77	half-breeds state that no slaughter by large parties of hunters
    78	or Indians can turn large herds from the general direction they
    79	have taken when on the march; want of food is alone able to make
    80	them deviate from the course they have taken. The approach of
    81	numerous herds can be recognised by a low rumbling sound they
    82	occasion, if the weather be calm, fully twenty miles before they
    83	arrive, this warning is best perceived by applying the ear to a
    84	badger hole. During the rutting season they can be heard
    85	bellowing for a great distance on a still night. When we arrived
    86	at the Sandy Hills on the South Branch, the Crees, on being asked
    87	if the buffalo were numerous near at hand, answered, 'listen to-
    88	night and you will hear them.'
    89	     The summer and fall buffalo hunts are the grand events of
    90	the year to the Red River settlers, in fact the chief dependence
    91	for a livelihood of the greater part of the population. The start
    92	is usually made from the settlements about the 15th of June for
    93	the summer hunt, the hunters remaining in the prairie until the
    94	20th August or 1st of September. One division (the White Horse
    95	Plain) goes by the Assinniboine River to the 'rapids crossing
    96	place,' and then proceed in a south-westerly direction. The
    97	other, or Red River division, pass on to Pembina, and then take a
    98	southerly direction. The two divisions sometimes meet, but not
    99	intentionally. Mr. Flett in 1849 took a census of the White Horse
   100	Plain division near the Chiefs' Mountain, not far from the
   101	Shayenne River, Dacotah Territory, and enumerated 603 carts, 700
   102	half-breeds, 200 Indians, 600 horses, 200 oxen, 400 dogs and one
   103	cat.
   104	     Mr. Ross* gives the following census of the number of carts
   105	assembled in camp for the buffalo hunt at five different
   106	periods:--
   108	In 1820. Number of carts assembled for the first trip       540
   109	In 1825         "            "             "                680
   110	In 1830         "            "             "                820
   111	In 1835         "            "             "                970
   112	In 1840         "            "             "               1210
   114	     After the start from the settlement has been well made, and
   115	all stragglers or tardy hunters have arrived, a great council is
   116	held, and a president elected. A number of captains are nominated
   117	by the president and people jointly. The captains then proceed to
   118	appoint their own policemen, the number assigned to each not
   119	exceeding ten. Their duty is to see that the laws of the hunt are
   120	strictly carried out. In 1849, if a man ran a buffalo without
   121	permission before the general hunt began, his saddle and bridle
   122	were cut to pieces, for the first offence; for the second offence
   123	of the same description his clothes were cut off his back. At the
   124	present day these punishments are changed to a fine of twenty
   125	shillings for the first offence. No gun is permitted to be fired
   126	when in the buffalo country before the 'race' begins. A priest
   127	sometimes goes with the hunt, and mass is then celebrated in the
   128	open prairies. At night the carts are placed in the form of a
   129	circle with the horses and cattle inside the ring, and it is the
   130	duty of the captains and their policemen to see that this is
   131	rightly done. All camping orders are given by signal, a flag
   132	being carried by the guides, who are appointed by election. Each
   133	guide has his turn of one day, and no man can pass a guide on
   134	duty without subjecting himself to a fine of five shillings.  No
   135	hunter can leave the camp to return home without permission, and
   136	no one is permitted to stir until any animal or property of
   137	value, supposed to be lost, is recovered.  The policemen, at the
   138	order of the captains, can seize any cart at night-fall and place
   139	it where they choose for the public safety, but on the following
   140	morning they are compelled to bring it back to the spot from
   141	which they moved it the evening previous.  This power is very
   142	necessary in order that the horses may not be stampeded by night
   143	attacks of the Sioux or other Indian tribes at war with the half-
   144	breeds.  A heavy fine is imposed in case of neglect in
   145	extinguishing fires when the camp is broken up in the morning. 
   146	In sight of buffalo, all the hunters are drawn up in line, the
   147	president, captains, and police being a few yards in advance,
   148	restraining the impatient hunters.  Not yet, not yet, is the
   149	subdued whisper of the president; the approach to the herd is
   150	cautiously made.  Now! the president exclaims, and as the word
   151	leaves his lips the charge is made, and in a few minutes the
   152	excited half-breeds are among the bewildered buffalo.
   153	     Blind buffalo are frequently found accompanying herds, and
   154	sometimes they are met with alone.  Their eyes have been
   155	destroyed by prairie fires; but their quickening sense of hearing
   156	and smell, and their increased alertness enable them to guard
   157	against danger, and makes it more difficult to approach them in
   158	quiet weather than those possessing sight.  The hunters think
   159	that blind buffalo frequently give the alarm when they are
   160	stealthily approaching a herd in an undulating country.  When
   161	galloping over stony ground blind buffalo frequently fall, but
   162	when quietly feeding they avoid the stones and boulders with
   163	wonderful skill. ...
   165	          *. London: 1856.
   168	Source:
   170	     Henry Youle Hind,  Vol. II
   173	     (London: 1860), Chapter XXVIII.
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