Discuss the theme of destruction of the natural world in "The Flower-fed Buffaloes" by Vachel Lindsay

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jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In "The Flower-Fed Buffaloes," Vachel Lindsay mourns the disappearance of buffaloes from the American environment.   Millions of buffalo (or, perhaps more correctly, bison) were slaughtered in the 19th century.

Lindsay romanticizes the buffalo by referring to them as "flower-fed," thus contrasting them with the environment that replaced them: locomotives, wheat fields, and "Wheels and wheels and wheels spin[ning] by."

Lindsay also portrays some aspects of the buffalo that might be considered negative: "They gore no more, they bellow no more..."

The last three lines of the poem could be interpreted in different ways:

They gore no more, they bellow no more:--
With the Blackfeet lying low,
With the Pawnee lying low.

What does Lindsay mean to say about the two tribes, the Blackfeet and the Pawnee, "lying low."  Does he mean that members of these tribes used to lie low when they hid themselves while hunting for buffalo?  Or does he mean that  these tribes, along with the herds of buffalo, have been greatly depleted?  There are historians who maintain that the U.S. government encouraged the slaughter of buffalo in order to drive away the Native Americans who depended on them for their livelihood (but who, it should be noted, did not seriously deplete the herds, despite having hunted them for centuries).

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