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By CAPT. JAMES W. DIXON, LATE U.S.A.
Captain Dixon is deeply interested in our movement for the preservation of the buffalo, and in giving us this description of conditions on the plains thirty-five years ago he hopes to assist in the work by calling attention to the important part the Bison played in the upbuilding of the Western frontier. Coming from a veteran of the old Bison trails the article cannot but be of lasting interest to our readers.-EDITOR.
HE Kansas Pacific Railroad had been constructed only as far West as Fort Riley in 1867 and the great plains with their monotonous undulations known in Western parlance as "divides," stretched away for hundreds of miles North, West and South, unrelieved by any sign of civilization, save here and there a station of the overland stage route, or a military post or "fort."
So numerous were buffaloes when I first struck the plains that hundreds of thousands of them were killed by Indians, tourists and traders, many for their skins alone, and sometimes not even that excuse was made for their slaughter. Every traveling tourist who had the means must needs have his fling at the buffalo, and the only consolation in the contemplation of their wanton butchery is that the buffalo sometimes had his fling at them.
At this time the buffalo furnished the chief food of the five wild tribes of plains Indians, the Sioux or "Cutthroats, Cheyennes or Sacrificers, Kiowas or "Prairie tribe," Arapahoes or "Cutnoses," and Apaches, Lipans, or "poor band." The estimated number of buffaloes on the plains in 1868 was
With the Indians the buffalo was the aboriginal occupant of the plains and the movements of the immense herds governed the location of the tribes. Before the settlement of the country by the whites, the buffalo roamed over the whole territory, from the Missouri river to the Rocky mountains and from the plains of Western Texas to the headwaters of the Missouri in the far North. Thirty-five years ago the buffalo was not found South of the Red river, or within two hundred miles of the Missouri at Kansas City.
Like many wild animals the buffalo was migratory in his habits, his movements having been influenced by the seasons and by abundance or scarcity