Meskwaki Hunting and Game
Ko be tti ne no swa
Buffalo was another major big game with annual tribal buffalo hunts done in the fall. The Meskwaki hunted the woodland buffalo east of the Mississippi and then the plains buffalo after crossing the Mississippi. However, buffalo disappeared from Meskwaki territory by 1821 and afterwards they had to cross the Missouri to hunt buffalo. The last of the Meskwaki buffalo hunts was in the 1850's before the Meskwaki came back from Kansas. With the woodland buffalo gone, the Meskwaki had to go quite far out on the prairies until they came out into the plains.
About June when the crops had a good start, hunting parties went out on a buffalo hunt. They went to the vicinity of where the herd was expected to be. Then the leader would tell his head men to send out scouts with instructions to kill a few buffalo if found, so the hunting party could eat.
When the scouts returned successful with buffalo meat the band moved to within two miles of the main herd. During the move and the hunt, camp police held the band together - that prevented straggling, so that no one scared the herd. The head men fixed the location of the camp, with the wickiups being pitched in a row.
When the herd was located, camp police held the hunters in check until the herd had been circled. When all was ready a signal was given and acharge was made on the herd. Anyone disobeying the starting signal was severly punished by the police.
Urging the horses along side the buffalo, the hunter rapped the bowstrings to make the herd scatter. Then picking a buffalo the hunter tried to shoot his arrow through the buffalo's kidneys. If he could not he tried some other vital spot.
When enough buffalo had been killed, the chief would order out some hunters to hunt alone and bring in meat for the widows and other families without headsof the household. This was repeated until all were provided for and there was meat drying in front of every wickiup.
There were generally two chases per day, one just about dawn and another in the evening, early enough so that the meat was brought into camp before dark. There was no hunting in the middle of the day because the old bulls were hot and cross and would likely charge a hunter.
When everyone was well supplied with meat, the band would start back to the village. Scouts were sent back to the village telling the rest of the tribe the hunters were coming home. Those who remained at the village would then meet the band out on the praire and would be given some meat so each would have some. (JLB)
Source for illustration: Wacochachi's Pictograph.