Rounds Ignores U.S. Military’s Role in Near-Annihilation of Our New National Mammal

Mike Rounds buffalo hatIn the greatest achievement of his political career, junior Senator Mike Rounds helped make the bison our national mammal. In his important statement on this important issue, our important Senator notes, “As we all know, the tens of millions of bison roamed freely before settlers came to the West, overhunting them to the brink of extinction in the 1800s.

Gadfly Jim Kent takes exception to Senator Rounds’s superficial grasp of history and the empire’s responsibility for the near-extermination of the bison:

In the eyes of the federal government and the politicians who comprise it, acts of omission are a matter of course. Failing to offer complete information on any topic probably won’t send you to jail but, more often than not, will land you a seat in Congress.

The reality of the “brink of extinction” status of the American buffalo by the late 1800s can be traced directly to U.S. Army leaders like William Tecumseh Sherman who realized that one path to solving “the Indian problem” was to destroy their food source. “Slaughter the buffalo, destroy the tribes” was a government-condoned and encouraged post-Civil War precursor to the “kill the Indian, save the man” mentality that would later be used in government and Christian boarding schools.

…I’m sure a Westwardbound settler – or 50 – may have taken the opportunity to kill one or more in order to feed themselves and their family. But their impact on the, literally, millions of American buffalo slaughtered across the Great Plains in less than a century was less than negligible [Jim Kent, “Honoring Our National Mammal—by Killing One,” Lakota Country Times, 2016.05.19].

We may dispute whether extermination of the bison was an official policy. American University’s Inventory of Conflict and Environment excerpts Robert Wooster’s 1988 The Military and United States Indian Policy 1865–1903:

Some scholars suggest that in order to make migration to the west easier, the US government, through the Army, adopted a policy to exterminate the buffalo. Extermination of the buffalo would inevitably mean the demise of the Indians who so relied on them for almost every aspect of their existence.

“Although the army was plagued by strategic failures, the near extermination of the American bison during the 1870s helped to mask the military’s poor performance. By stripping many Indians of their available resources, the slaughter of the buffalo severely reduced the Indians’ capacity to continue an armed struggle against the United States. The military’s role in this matter is difficult to asses. Sheridan and Sherman recognized that eliminating the buffalo severely reduced the Indians’ capacity to continue an armed struggle against the United States. The editors of the Army and Navy Journal supported the proposition, comparing such an effort with Civil War campaigns against Confederate supplies and food sources. Forts provided de facto support for hunters, who used the civilian services often found near army bases. Officers and enlisted personnel also killed buffalo for food and sport, though the impact of their hunts was minute when compared to the organized efforts of the professionals.” (The Military and United States Indian Policy, p. 171) “In 1874, Secretary of the Interior Delano testified before Congress, “The buffalo are disappearing rapidly, but not faster than I desire. I regard the destruction of such game as Indians subsist upon as facilitating the policy of the Government, of destroying their hunting habits, coercing them on reservations, and compelling them to begin to adopt the habits of civilization.” (The Military and United States Indian Policy, p. 171) Two years later, reporter John F. Finerty wrote that the government’s Indian allies “killed the animals in sheer wantonness, and when reproached by the officers said: ‘better kill buffalo than have him feed the Sioux.'” Although Sheridan added that “if I could learn that every buffalo in the the northern herd were killed I would be glad,” some indications point to a groundswell of military opposition to the killing. (The Military and United States Indian Policy, p. 172) In 1873, the Secretary of War was forwarded a letter from Major R.J. Dodge, endorsed by [General] Pope and Sheridan, that addressed the problem. The Secretary of War also approved Sheridan’s request which seemed to indicate the general’s own ambivalence on the subject, to authorize Col. De L. Floyd Jones “to put a stop to their wholesale destruction.” Several officers protested the wanton destruction to Henry Bergh, president of the America Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The army, while anxious to strike against the Indians’ ability to continue their resistance, did not make the virtual extermination of the American bison part of its official policy; in some cases, individual officers took it upon themselves to try and end the slaughter. (The Military and United States Indian Policy, p. 171)

While evidence seems to point to the existence of an official policy, the debate about whether one actually existed still continues (as noted in the above paragraph) [ICE Case Studies, “The Buffalo Harvest,” American University, 1997.12.18].

This David D. Smits article from Autumn 1994 further emphasizes the responsibility borne by Sherman, Custer, and the U.S. Army (which had lots more disposable ammunition and spare time than the typical homesteader) in wiping out the Great Plains bison herds.

So come on, Senator Rounds: you’re an anti-government Republican, right? Instead of blaming regular citizens just trying to make a living on the plains, wouldn’t you serve your political ideology better by emphasizing the federal government’s blame for nearly exterminating the bison?

35 Responses to Rounds Ignores U.S. Military’s Role in Near-Annihilation of Our New National Mammal

  1. Sen. Rounds’ next major bill will be to designate kuchen as the national dessert. He’s all for the destruction of the kuchen herd.

  2. mike from iowa

    Has any of your representatives done anything that wasn’t superficial? Superficial’s got ficial in it, so it must be good,right?

  3. mike from iowa

    “The buffalo are disappearing rapidly, but not faster than I desire. I regard the destruction of such game as Indians subsist upon as facilitating the policy of the Government, of destroying their hunting habits, coercing them on reservations, and compelling them to begin to adopt the habits of civilization.”

    Sounds eerily similar to how korporate amerika and wingnuts view our natural resources in an effort to rehabilitate environmentalists.

  4. Paul Seamans

    I read a fair amount of history. Never, ever have I read where settlers were blamed for the decimation of the buffalo herd.

    If there were 60 million buffalo how much buffalo meat would the average settler and his family have to eat each and every day? Mike Rounds gets an F- in today’s history lesson.

  5. Nick Nemec

    Weren’t buffalo hunters notorious for taking the hide and tongue and leaving the rest to rot?

    By the time settlers got to my part of South Dakota in the 1880s the buffalo in this area were long gone. The only buffalo they saw were in picture books.

  6. Or piles of skulls waiting to be shipped to make fertilizer like in this photo –

    From Andrew Isenberg, author of The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750-1920:
    Colonel Dodge said in 1867, “Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone,” and Delano wrote in his 1872 annual report, “The rapid disappearance of game from the former hunting-grounds must operate largely in favor of our efforts to confine the Indians to smaller areas, and compel them to abandon their nomadic customs.”

    “As a policy statement, I think that’s pretty clear,” Isenberg said. The Army had already used a similar strategy—In its 1863-1864 campaign against the Navajos, led by Colonel Kit Carson, the Army destroyed tens of thousands of sheep in a successful effort to subdue the Navajos.”

  7. Sen. Rounds would bow to the grazing rights of the cattlemen; sheep-herders; wolf-haters; coyote-haters; and any other group that would get him re-elected. The buffalo do not have a vote in this. Bison were here, before we were.

  8. This is just another example of how much influence to buffalo lobby has in this country. No one, Democrat or Republican will stand against them. When our Congress is deadlocked in issues of the budget, the Supreme Court or transgender bathrooms, the all powerful buffalo lobby can get legislation passed. Trump or Clinton, who ever gets the buffalo endorsement will be our next president. I feel so helpless.

  9. mike from iowa

    Drumpf picked Dennis Rodman to advise him on North Koren policy. I imagine the motor city Madmam. child molestor , unpatriotic sleaze bag Theodore Nugent has the qualities Drumpf wants in an Interior Secretinary or Game and Parks chief law violator.

  10. Douglas Wiken

    Of all things Rounds has done, this is probably the least offensive and least significant.

  11. Lanny V Stricherz

    What about Buffalo Bill and the others that the railroads hired to kill the buffalo so that they didn’t delay the trains?

  12. I’ve heard that, too, Lanny, but it sounds more like the railroads helped the military carry out its policy:

  13. 1855 officers’ diaries in the run-up to the slaughter of Lakota at Blue Water Creek are replete with slaughter of buffalo day after day, for sport.

    If shooting up Lakota bodies for target practice, if this is indeed true, after the Harney/Little Thunder atrocity wasn’t for sport, what was it? Harney encouraged his 600 some troops to give no quarter. He split his troops and stealthily surrounded the Brule village and Oglala camp nearby. Then he parleyed at twilight with Little Thunder before sunrise and then immediately attacked. Is it re-writing history to acknowledge a war crime in 1855 as offensive in 2016?

    Western and military ethos of the day was to slaughter buffalo and slaughter Indians as the west was “tamed” or “won”.

    Yesterday NPR broadcast a long piece on the Homestake deep mineshafts now exploited for particle physics, interviewing 4th generation Deadwood and Lead residents as part of the proud mining legacy. Their pride extends to slaughtering buffalo and Indians to take the land and resources. The 1872 Mining Law and 1876 Water Laws are direct enactments codifying this usurpation.

    As polls are taken to dilute Indian claims of offensiveness of the “Redskins”, local media and chambers extoll “We Love OUR Black Hills” ad campaigns seemed designed to brush-off legitimate Indian efforts to protect their culture, scared Pe’ Sla, renaming sacred Harney Peak, and advancement of Indian higher education.

  14. Wow, does who killed the buffalo really effect anyone’s daily routine today??? Come on, stick to fighting for the rights of men to pee in ladies bathrooms and get over the destruction of the buffalo!

  15. Stu, it matters at least as much as Senator Rounds’s effort to declare the bison our national mammal. If he’s going to try building up his political capital with this latest piece of feel-good do-nothingness, then we have good reason to poke holes in his misportrayal of history. I would think that you would find it important to point out the ignorance (willfull or lazy) or our politicians and make sure they have and promote a clear understanding of American history.

    But as usual, when a post deals with issues for which your talk-radio education hasn’t prepared you, you feel the need to try pulling us away to the talking points with which you’d rather play.

    Admit it, Stu: Rounds was wrong. Say it—you’ll feel better. :-)

  16. Stump, when a transgender has a sex change operation from boy to girl would you still be against them going into the ladies bathroom?

  17. mike from iowa

    Metaphorically speaking, Stumpy- korporate amerika and wingnuts use the same tactics to subdue America’s working class’ by killing off the working classes buffalo, wages, benefits and jobs.

  18. Apparently, Christians do no believe that all god’s children are beautiful and do not deserve to be accepted for who they are. Liberals embrace every child, especially children such as these struggling hurting individuals. Transgenders are in great pain from years of shame, bullying and rejection. In their struggle they need caring empathetic adults more than ever to be there for them and to listen to them. A caring society needs to reach out to them and accept them for who they are instead of shaming them.

  19. Steve Sibson

    Then comes the obvious question, who is next on the federal government’s list? I doubt it will be the transgender.

  20. Robin Friday

    The American Bison did not go nearly extinct because of “over-hunting”, Senator Rounds, how disingenuous. They declined calamitously because the military was instructed to bring the Plains Tribes to submission and annihilation by destroying their subsistence. Buffalo Bill was no hero and neither were the presidents who instituted such measures and the military officers who carried out the execution.

  21. mike from iowa

    I have it on good authority that you,Sibby, are next and then Stumpy and Good Sense get the evil eye.

    Don’t quote me, I doubt you accept the word of a heathen prairie dog with a chip on its shoulder against ammosexuals killing “dogs” for spirt.

  22. So Rounds was wrong as you are on believing that gender is a choice. Who killed the buffalo does not effect America, but allowing people to do whatever they want without any rules does.

  23. Jenny, liberals truly embrace every child except the millions they push to be aborted every year! Hypocrite!!

  24. Well why don’t you adopt one of the millions of foster children in this country if you care about them so much, Stump?
    Then with women’s right to choose taken away there would be millions more that need homes and they would need your support and love.

  25. mike from iowa

    Who sez gender is a choice? Who sez liberals push abortions? Why don’t you wise up and learn to read and understand what you are reading. You open your mouth and shove all 8 of your feet in at one time.

  26. Roger Cornelius

    republicans say they are pro-life and than turn around and send their wives and daughters to Minnesota or other states to get an abortion.

  27. Really, liberals don’t push abortions??? Really??? Liberals don’t want to make gender a choice??? Instead of getting mental help, liberals just prefer to let people think they are something they are not. jenny, why not try personal responsibility, but I realize that is an awful idea to you liberals. If you do not want to make a baby, don’t!! Once again, let me pay taxes to pay for those that don’t and let me adopt babies to bail out those that prefer irresponsibility. Nice idea!!

  28. mike from iowa

    Proof,Stumpy,proof. Never any proof. You spout bs and never back it up. Name one person pushing abortions and prove it.

  29. Paul Seamans

    “South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds blames hunters for the near extinction of the buffalo”. Doesn’t this give hunters a bad name? What is South Dakota’s Game, Fish, and Parks response to this? What say ye various hunters organizations?

  30. Bill Dithmer

    It doesnt matter who killed the buffs! There I said it. If it wasnt the army, or hunters, it makes no difference. In order for us to have the country we have today, they had to go. If those bison were still in the big herds, none of you would even be here to be talking about it because you would not be alive.

    It was manifest destiny that killed the big herds. It was a combination of things that were a direct result of expansion that killed the bison. If we put this in perspective, its easy to understand. The country had choices back then. Either it could get more crowded on the coast, or the people could move west.

    None of the things you see today would have been possible if there were still big herds. There would be no super highways, but then there wouldnt be a need would there?

    Most, if not all the major cities from St Louis west wouldn’t even exist. There wouldnt be any big farms, or ranches because nobody would dare plant a field or run cattle when there was a chance for 100,000 bison that could ruin everything that you worked for in a couple of minutes.

    And then this, the people had a choice. The country could stay small and be at the mercy of bigger more powerful countries, or they could expand and grow to the west. Expansion meant that the big herds had to go.

    The direct result of the dimise of the big herds of bison is the cheap food that everyone is eating today.

    I can tell you from my own experience that until you have seen these animals up close and feel the power you have no idea how dangerous they are. They will travel more then a mile to cause trouble, and if you dont have something to climb or hide behind they will kill you. I cant even imagine what a big herd would be like, but I have been in a pasture horseback with twenty head and before I got out I was scared.

    So see it doesnt make any difference who killed the buffs, it was going to happen if the country was going to grow.

    If this is the kind of stuff your going the throw at Mike Rounds, he can look forward to a long life as South Dakotas junior senator.

    The Blindman

  31. stum doesn’t want to talk about buffalo… he seems transfixed on transgenders. Perhaps he needs to ask himself why that is.

  32. bearcreekbat

    Jenny, this seems slightly off topic but you just described Hillary perfectly when you said:

    “Liberals embrace every child, especially children such as these struggling hurting individuals.”

  33. mike from iowa

    Stumpy-if you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one. It is idiots like you that can’t see past the initial point so you make generalized, stoopid statements like if you don’t want a baby, don’t get pregnant. What about rape and/or incest victims that get impregnated? Telling them not to get raped or be a victim of incest doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t even have to be “legitimate” rape to knock some woman up. Get a freaking clue,will you?

  34. Paul Seamans

    To me this blog isn’t so much about what happened to the buffalo. This blog is that Mike Rounds doesn’t have a clue as to how or why the buffalo disappeared. Just another example of why Mike isn’t intelligent enough to be a senator.

  35. Lanny V Stricherz

    Angela Koeneche had him on at 6 on KELO about Gear up and also a Native American (identity preserved) telling about the fraud starting under Rounds which he had denied in his interview with Angela. There is going to be more of the interview on KELO at 10 tonight.