What was the Bison Hunt to the Metis?

According to Wijewardena, “Bison are colossal creatures that travel in herds” (2012, paragraph 1).  But to the Métis, they were much more.  For the Métis–people of both European and First Nation descent–“the bison was a virtual supermarket, providing all the necessities of life” (Canada Hall, 2010, paragraph 8).

Taking place in every spring and fall, the bison hunt was “the biggest event of the year” (Garneau, 1813, paragraph 2) in the Métis community.  Bison not only provided meat and hides, but every part of the bison was used; such as the bone which was used for marrow.  The hides made into buffalo robes and the meat made into pemmican brought in income as it was sold to the North West Company (Cranny, Jarvis, Moles & Seney, 2009).

“Besides being an important food-gathering activity, the hunt was a social occasion that brought together families who saw each other only a few times a year” (Canada Hall, 2010, paragraph 5).  Also due to the fact a hunt was only possible in large groups, the bison hunt lead the Métis to become a closely knitted society.  Every person was required to contribute.  Even the women and children held a significant role: They cleaned the hides, dried the meat and prepared pemmican (Young & Préfontaine, 2003).  This “fostered a strong sense of community [and] pride” (Cranny, Jarvis, Moles & Seney, 2009, page 142).

Since bison were such dangerous creatures and travelled in large herds, hunting them was not simple.  Order and organization were crucial in a bison hunt.  Therefore there was an elected captain whom had absolute authority during the hunt (Cranny, Jarvis, Moles & Seney, 2009).  If any were to slack off or act without permission, the person would be punished.  With the amount of practice and discipline in preparation for the bison hunts, the Métis’ military organization improved greatly (Young & Préfontaine, 2003) and respect and authority were highly prioritized.

Because of the bonding between the women and children while making pemmican, the family relations were more matriarchal (Canada Hall, 2010, paragraph 9).  This was another significant way bison shaped the society and culture of the Métis.  And because of the great influence, by only reading the format and regulations of the bison hunt there are many things one can learn about the Métis.

References:

Canada Hall (2010). Metis Bison Hunters Retrieved from http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/canp1/ca13eng.shtml

Cranny, M., Jarvis, G., Moles, G. Seney, B. (2009). Horizons: Canada’s emerging identity. 2nd Ed. Don Mills, Ontario: Pearson Education Canada

Young, P. & Préfontaine, D. (2003). Bison Hunting. Retrieved from http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/batoche/docs/proof_en_buffalo_hunt.pdf

Wijewardena, H. (2012). Bison to the Métis. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://jhss10hailywijewardena.wordpress.com/