Traditions

The Buffalo Jump

The Buffalo Jump

The Arapaho people depended on the buffalo for our livelihood. Our warriors hunted them on foot, on horse, by stealth and by making loud noises. These brave hunters would sneak into the midst of a herd disguised as wolves to bring down one buffalo. At other times, the entire tribe would come together to drive an entire herd off a cliff. One such account of how the Arapaho came to use these buffalo jumps was recorded by an English Professor from the Washington State University. In the 1930’s, Miss Ella Elizabeth Clark, recorded the following story of the origin of the buffalo jump from an Arapaho informant. “A man tried to think how the Arapahos might kill buffalo. He was a hard thinker who would go off for several days to fast and think. At last he dreamed that a voice spoke to him and told him what to do. Going back to his people, he made an enclosure of trees set in the ground with willows wound between them. At one side of the enclosure there was only a cliff with rocks at the bottom. Then four runners who never tired were sent out to the windward of a herd of buffalo, two of them on each side of the herd. They drove the animals toward the enclosure and into it. Then the people drove the buffalo around inside until a heavy cloud of dust rose. Unable to see in the dust, the animals ran over the cliff and were killed.” The Western Photographer Edward S. Curtis described seeing a buffalo jump: “The manner of driving and decoying the bison was a varied as the form of the slaughter-pen; but whatever the method, the purpose and results were the same — the object was to stampede the herd, or a part of it, and to direct the rapidly moving animals to a given point, the Indians knowing that, once well in motion, they would run into their own destruction. The Sioux (allies of the Arapaho) built out in rapidly diverging lines from the pen a light brush construction, not in truth a fence, as it was only substantial enough to form a line. Men concealed themselves behind this brush, and when the herd was well inside the lines the hunters rose up and by shouting and waving their blankets frightened the animals on. Sometimes a man skillful in the ways of the bison would disguise himself in one of their skins and act as leader of the drove to the extent of starting them in their mad rush. By this method the Indians simply took advantage of a characteristic habit of the buffalo — to follow their leader blindly. The movement grew...

Read More

Arapaho Hair Traditions

In the early days, hair was part of an Arapaho’s identity. It was worn in such a way to signify who we were and our role in the tribe. For example, the Keeper of the Pipe was not allowed to comb his hair. In the old days, before the 1900’s, an Arapaho man parted his hair on each side in either a braid or tied together. Over his temples, the hair was cut into a zig zag edge and stood upright on his forehead. This style was down to make the wearer look fierce and resembled the ‘mohawk’. In the 1900’s, the style evolved so that the hair was worn in braids or masses tied together over the ear and scalp. The old men did not comb their hair and instead rolled it. When it was sticky and matted, they would gather in in a bunch over their forehead much like the dreadlocks of today. Hair styles also changed over the years for woman. Before the reservation, they would wear their hair loose with paint on it. The paint along the part of their hair was called “path of the sun”. They also painted streaks down their face, on their cheeks, forehead and nose, to signify war. Black paint symbolized victory and Red was the color most used which represented old age and happiness or a wish for happiness. When in mourning, women and men did not paint their face and the first painting after completion of mourning would be with red paint and is called “washing” or “cleansing”. The old women wore their hair loose and tangled. They painted a spot on each cheek bone and one on the forehead, the latter which signified a buffalo calf. A line from the mouth down to the chin represented a road. These symbols together signified peace. By the 1900s, women wore two braids tucked behind their ears. Their hair was parted from the forehead to the nape of their neck. The old woman continued to wear their hair loose. These traditions fell out of use after the boarding school era and the loss of the age grade society of the Arapaho. Hohou! The information for this article was found in “Arapaho People” by Kroeber, pages 25 – 27. Jackie Dorothy,...

Read More