Originally Posted: July 27, 2018
For centuries, the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains hunted the bison that once roamed across much of the continent in enormous numbers. But hunting these huge animals takes an enormous amount of skill and planning. New research has shown that First Nations people actively altered their landscape — including with the strategic use of fire — to manage and control large herds of bison.
Funnelling bison into ‘drivelines’
A bison hunt required an enormous amount of planning. These early hunters built cairns out of rock to force the bison onto narrow paths, or “drivelines,” allowing the hunters to more easily move in for the kill.
Archeological evidence suggests that some of the drivelines were as much as a kilometre long.
This hunting strategy, which involved actively manipulating the landscape, was already underway some 2,800 years ago, and reached its zenith about 1,000 years ago, said anthropologist Christopher Roos of Southern Methodist University.
“Hunters, in bands of maybe 100 to 150 people per band, began to construct features on the landscape to harvest bison en masse, in large groups, usually by driving them toward traps, or into an enclosed gully, or off of a cliff,” Roos told Quirks & Quarks summer host Britt Wray. LISTEN