In 1840 Alexander Ross, a Canadian trader, witnessed a buffalo hunt on the Sheyenne River, of which he gives the following account:
At 8 o'clock the cavalcade made for the buffalo, first at a slow trot, then at a gallop, and lastly at full speed. Their advance was on a dead level, the plains having no hollows, or shelter of any kind, to conceal the approach. When within four or five hundred yards, the buffalo began to curve their tails and paw the ground, and in a moment more to take might, and the hunters burst in among them and began to fire.
"Those who have seen a squadron of horse dash into battle may imagine the scene. The earth seemed to tremble when the horses started, but when the animals fled it was like the shock of an earthquake. The air was darkened, and the rapid firing at last became more faint, and the hunters became more distant.
During the day at least two thousand buffalo must have been killed, for there were brought into camp 1,375 tongues. The hunters were followed by the carts which brought in the carcasses. Much of the meat was useless because of the heat of the season, but the tongues were cured, the skins saved, and the pemmican prepared.
For years, buffalo hunting had been carried on as a business, under strict organization. A priest accompanied the hunt to look after the spiritual welfare of the hunters and their families. The women went along to do the drudgery of the camp and care for the meat.
When the herd was reached there was the early morning attack, after due preparation, each hunter killing from five to twenty, according to his skill and equipment, and each was able to claim his own from the size or form or combination of bullet and buckshot used by him.
When the meat was cared for another assault was made on the herd, with which they sometimes kept in touch six to eight weeks, the attacks being repeated until all of the carts and available ponies were loaded for the return trip.
In 1849, 1,210 half-breed carts were among the Pembina hunters. When they halted at night the carts were formed in a circle, the shafts projecting outward. Tents were pitched in one extremity of the enclosure, and the animals gathered at the other end. The camp was a complete organization, captains and chiefs being elected to command.
No person was allowed to act on his own responsibility. nor to use even a sinew without accounting for it. No hunter was allowed to lag, or lop off, or go before, without permission, each being required to take his turn on guard or patrol, and no work was allowed to be done on the Sabbath day. A camp crier was appointed, and any offender was proclaimed a thief, or whatever the nature of the offense might be.
Source: North Dakota history and people, outlines of American history. Clement Lounsberry - W.C. & Cox Co. - 1974
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