Anthropology | Buffalo Nation: Arch & Ethnography of an Am. Icon
P600 | 30913 | Scheiber


Buffalo Nation is a multidisciplinary experimental course designed to
introduce students to the American buffalo (Bison bison) as a unique
combination of food, symbol, status, and material culture.  The
buffalo can be seen as a symbol of Native America in the past and
present, as a major food and spiritual resource for Plains Indians, as
an animal perfectly adapted to range habitat, and as a modern
alternative meat source.   As the largest terrestrial land mammal in
the Americas for thousands of years since the end of the Pleistocene,
bison were a critical and important resource for many Native
occupants.  They were integrally tied to creation stories, as well as
providing shelter, clothing, and tools to both nomadic
hunter-gatherers and farming communities throughout the North American
Plains.  As a consequence of American military campaigns combined with
massive overhunting by professional hide hunters, the American buffalo
became nearly extinct in the nineteenth century.   However due to the
concerted efforts of conservationists, activists, and ranchers (both
Native and non-Native), buffalo herds have since rebounded.
Successful buffalo ranching has led to the increase in supply and
demand for buffalo meat as an alternative to beef in many areas of the
country.

The students in this course will follow the history of the buffalo
from the dominant food source on the Plains thousands of years ago to
a modern meat served in restaurants in the Midwest.  The class will be
divided into three sections: subsistence and acquisition, butchering,
and modern cuisine.  In each section, students will read and discuss
both archaeological and ethnographic case studies, as well as have
hands-on opportunities in the Bloomington area.   The course will
occur both inside and outside the regular classroom, and students
should expect to spend some class meetings at off-campus locations,
include local ranches, butchers, and restaurants.   Exercises will
include including identification of bison bones, mapping a buffalo in
archaeological context, experimental butchering with stone tools, and
following the local buffalo from ranch to butcher to local restaurants.

This course is intended for students interested in the mighty buffalo,
graduate students in the food and anthropology concentration,
undergraduates in the food in anthropology minor, and undergraduates
who have previously enrolled in zooarchaeology.  Archaeology and
cultural anthropology students who are working in the Plains are also
strongly encouraged to enroll in the class.

Prerequisites:  None, but I am especially looking for students with a
strong foundation and interest in food and anthropology and in using
the buffalo as a case study.