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Fort Worth Flashback: Native Americans used virtually every portion of the bison

Posted May 7, 2012

buffalo

Bison played a part in practically every aspect of the lives of Native Americans who lived in Texas.

Native Americans invented numerous ways to prepare bison meat for consumption. Some parts were eaten raw, some were cooked and other portions were dried as pemican, or jerky, a dried meat and fat concentrate.

Bull hides were too heavy for teepees — cow hides served this purpose — but were used for floors and sleeping mats. Sinew was used for sewing and binding. Bones were used as tools.

Early explorers and pioneers found bison trails to be level and safe passageways, preferring them because they were well packed down and did not lead to swamps or quicksand. In fact, many of our modern roads and interstate highways were once bison trails.

This 1885 photo shows a herd of bison on the Texas Plains.

By 1885, fewer than 1,000 animals remained on the Plains. But thanks to some early pioneer ranchers, like Charles Goodnight in West Texas, who caught and began to replenish herds through closely guarded breeding programs, bison are now once again prolific and have reached more than 450,000 head in North America alone.

The Fort Worth Library has approximately 10,000 items pertaining to the history of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. These items include city and county government documents, newspapers, directories, cemetery association records, maps as well as popular and scholarly books written by local authors or about local subjects. To learn more, call 817-392-7740 or email the Genealogy, History and Archives Section.

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