Leadership, Accomplishment and Cultural Celebration

The Bountiful Buffalo

Rebuilding the Lost Herds

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4-cent Trans-Mississippi Indian Hunting Buffalo stamp

To the American Indian people of the Plains, buffalo were considered the ever-abundant bounty; their vast natural herds, numbering in the millions, provided food, clothing, shelter, all manner of tools, and even boats. The Buffalo Nation’s existence was ceremonially appreciated in dance, song and prayer. Ironically, by 1898 when this stamp is issued, the vast buffalo herd, at one time sixty million strong, was reduced to a few hundred animals penned in ranches and zoos. The Native nations, similarly decimated, their economic life nearly destroyed at the turn of the 20th Century, have reclaimed and revitalized this important aspect of their culture.

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Assiniboin or Stoney beaded buffalo horn used in dance.
1/3343 Courtesy, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

This stamp is part of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue of 1898, issued in conjunction with the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition at Omaha, Nebraska, that called attention to developments west of the Mississippi River. The design is based on an engraving by Seth Eastman in one of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s volumes on the history of Indian tribes, published in 1854. Eastman was a talented amateur painter as well as an Army officer who had spent considerable time living among Plains Indians. It was issued in Omaha, Nebraska, June 17, 189.

Today, the 57 tribes of the InterTribal Bison Cooperative have rebuilt an Indian Country herd of over 15,000.

The buffalo is once again part of their peoples’ spiritual, ceremonial and nutritional life.

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Sioux carved and quilled buffalo horn spoon.
2/9580 Courtesy, Smithaonian National Museum of the American Indian.
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Tsitsistas/Suhtai (Cheyenne) beaded baby carrier.
2/9540 Courtesy, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.