THE BUFFALO by Francis Haines


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The buffalo is considered here as an artifact in a decimated Indian culture. To support his most interesting concept, Dr. Haines, who has written extensively on the American West, marshals historical and anthropological evidence, including monographs of various tribes in which the buffalo ""had been the central figure in the Indians' whole pattern of existence."" The many accounts by white observers seem to equate Indian and buffalo as a kind of natural phenomenon and their exploitation and massacre runs parallel. Dr. Haines asserts that the disappearance of the buffalo left a ""spiritually disturbed people, socially disorganized, and lacking a meaningful pattern for a new way of life."" In a moving chapter, the author tells the tragic story of the ""ghost dance"" of a ""ted messiah,"" one Wovoka, of the Paviotso tribe in Nevada, whose vision and admonitions remind one of the Seneca's Handsome Lake (of. The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca, p. 1246). The ""flame of hope"" given by Wovoka died in the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890. Some might argue that Dr. Haines' view is simplistic, but his findings are increasingly sobering, and after reading this one is apt to regard the remaining specimens of buffalo (a brief last chapter tells where they may be found) with a certain sadness. The style is as arid as the western plains but for the student of the Old West, a worthy pursuit.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1969
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell