Why are the buffalo so important to the Sioux?

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astrocourt | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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To the Sioux people, the buffalo literally represented life. Tools, garments, shelter, and food, could all be sourced from buffalo. No part of the buffalo was left to waste - even the bladder was re-used as a water carrying vessel.

For example:

bones: tools, cutlery, weapons, toys
hide: clothing, tent/shelter
meat: food
hair: mattress stuffing, clothing insulation

The reliance on the buffalo required a flexibility in surroundings. When the buffalo migrated, so did the tribe - their nomadic existence was defined by the animal.

The buffalo also held a spiritual meaning to the Sioux. They believed that the animal had been put on Earth for their use. Therefore it was important that no part of the animal should be wasted. It was usual for the first buffalo killed in a hunt to be sacrificed.

The resilience and strength of the animal was very well respected. Skulls were often used in ceremonies, and children were part-named 'buffalo' as an omen of strength and vitality.

Sources:

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