(EBOOK DOWNLOAD) The Destruction of the Bison An Environmental History 1750 1920 AUTHOR Andrew C. Isenberg
Its an amazing book Ever want to know about what really happened to the bison Want to get beyond the oversimplified explanation we all learn in grade school Then read this book Isenberg does a spectacular ob of explaining what really happened using an even handed matter of fact style He brings together a prodigious amount of period uotes and information all well footnoted and takes a scientific and balanced approach to explaining how we destroyed the largest and most dominant mammal in the largest biome in North America I have read a lot about bison and frontier history but this is the first book that put it all together in a cogent and well written story This should be reuired reading for all college sciencewildlife students Andrew Isenberg presents a solid and increasingly uncommon argument about the agency of culture production and ecology in environmental change He follows Arthur McEvoy s thesis and expands it specifically focusing on the American West and its environmental history What destroyed the bison Isenberg burdens the natural world the capitalist mode of production and the culture of Euroamericans and American Indians In a field dominated by anthropocentrism see Crosby s Changes In The Land Isenberg s argument is fresh but it ultimately lacks the determinism found in Cronon s text Ecological Imperialism and is therefore a bit too focused on humans as an agent of environmental change It is still a stellar story and history Finally a book that helps make sense of the rapid rise and fall of horse using plains bison hunting cultures both aboriginal and settler For the last few years I have been struggling to understand Manitoba Metis history and the relationships between Assiniboine Anishinaabe Sioux and Metis cultures in southern Manitoba I also couldn t figure out why or how Aboriginal Canadians fit into the story of the destruction of the 30 million bison that ranged across North America in the early 1800s This book helps to put everything into context Read it with Clearing the Plains to understand how disease and the destruction of the bison led to First Nations accepting the numbered treaties and the reserve system that continues to haunt Canadian peoples today One in a series of studies of the environment and history The Destruction of the Bison by Andrew Isenberg tells the story of how humans and the natural environment contributed to the near extinction of the bison on the American Great Plains In his introduction Isenberg describes how the destruction of the bison appears simple on the surface Excessive commercial hunting by Plains Indians and American hunters caused the herds to decline to a mere shadow of the roughly thirty million bison that had roamed the Plains in 1750 However by taking an environmental approach to the history of the bison Isenberg clearly demonstrates the decisive impact of grassland ecology horses smallpox the fur trade and gender roles on the destruction of the bisonIsenberg sets the stage by describing the situation in the 18th Century when the various Indians tribes bordering the Great Plains first acuired horses Until the arrival of the horse most Native Americans bordering the Plains lived in agricultural villages and raised crops Bison were hunted on foot and the hunt was conducted seasonally to supplement agriculture Over a period of thousands of years Indians had become extraordinarily skilled at hunting bison on foot However the bison above all was mobile indeed uite unpredictably so 9 and this fact than any other was the major limitation on how many bison could be killed The introduction of the horse removed this limitation It multiplied the ability to follow the herds and kill bison by giving the hunter eual mobility This allowed for a fundamental change of lifestyle It was now possible to abandon agriculture and hunt bison exclusivelyIncreased mobility was the most obvious benefit conferred by horses But it was not the The Destruction of the Bison explains the decline of the North American bison population from an estimated 30 million in 1800 to fewer than 1000 a century later In this wide ranging interdisciplinary study Andrew C Isenberg argues that the cultural and ecological encounter between Native America.
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(EBOOK DOWNLOAD) The Destruction of the Bison An Environmental History 1750 1920 AUTHOR Andrew C. Isenberg
Ir with the appearance of American hide hunters in the 1870s Hide hunters were men who indiscriminately killed bison using powerful rifles in order to ship the bison hide to Eastern manufacturers When faced with this new threat the already declining bison herds had no chanceThis book is an important contribution to the story of the bison for several reasons Isenberg effectively shows that the decline of the bison is not the simple story it appears to be He demonstrates the complexity of the destruction of the bison but does not allow that complexity to cloud the telling of this very important story The details provide key insights into the role of each environmental factor but the story never gets lost in the details By integrating environmental and social factors with economic factors Isenberg paints a convincing picture of the reasons for the bison s decline In this respect The Destruction of the Bison is similar to Elliott West s excellent book The Contested Plains West makes a similar case for the importance of environmental factors in the history of the Great Plains and both arguments are very powerful That being said Isenberg s arguments could have been even convincing The section concerning the importance of gender was not as clearly connected to the story as the descriptions of other factors in the decline of the bison There are details that describe the role of gender but they do not drive home the point as clearly as in other sections More maps would have been helpful as well There are only two and they fail to show the location of some of the events Isenberg describes For an environmental study not being able to locate certain areas in their environmental context lessened the effectiveness of the description This is a hindrance to readers not familiar with the geographical features of the Great Plains a very interesting book about how the bison were killed to near extinction and then brought back through conservation efforts Author gets a bit distracted by talking about grass and his dubious theory that the change in gender roles is what caused the Na Isenberg s work is a fairly exhaustive analysis of what pressures and factors contributed to the sudden and sharp decline of bison populations from the tens of millions to less than a thousand individuals by 1890 I found his arguments pointing to overhunt Authoritative study on what happened to the bison It s a sad story You probably already know or suspect the worst of itThe Indian tribes that hunted the bison are here too Their story is a brief rise and fall they adopt horses and guns to hunt the bison which later allowed them to gain dominance over the farming Indians because European diseases hit the farming Indians a lot harder than the bison hunters But when the bison are destroyed partially from over hunting by the Indians partially by Euroamericans the hunting tribes are all but ruined as well The information in this book is outdated at it was written a while ago Students have already been feed the facts that resulted from this book so some information seems redundant but I did like the overarching concepts presented and how he put them together Lots of good detail Yet the first three chapters are not that well organized but the last three are very interesting An impressive and original environmental history that conveys the entire story of the American Great Plains through its most notable mammalFirst Isenberg does a great ob explaining the traits and habits of the bison It alone among the American megafauna survived the great die off of 12000 years ago caused both by the last ice age and the introduction of Indian hunters because it could reproduce at almost 20% a year and it could survive on the stubby short grass of the drought afflicted Western plans Although it could gather in huge herds of up to 20000 during the summer rutting season most of the year it divided up into small separate herds of cows and. Ative Americans and Euroamericans created new types of hunters in both cultures mounted Indian nomads and white commercial hide hunters In the early twentieth century nostalgia about the very cultural strife that first threatened the bison became ironically an important impetus to its preservati.
Nly benefit Now for the first time Indians could tap into the most abundant natural resource of the Great Plains the grass Two types dominated the High Plains blue grama and buffalo grass They were well suited to survive on the Plains because their root systems were shallow but dense allowing them to capture most rainfall before it evaporated In addition these grasses only grew to a height of about two inches This protected them against the effects of drought because only a small surface area was exposed to heat and sunlight These grasses were important to the bison Because of their ability to resist drought blue grama and buffalo grass were dependable food sources when taller grasses withered and died in years of drought Horses could feed on these same grasses however and this greatly increased the range of the bison huntersThe acuisition of horses was an important reason for the shift to full time mobile hunting societies but it was not the only reason Isenberg cites disease as a second reason for this fundamental change The deadly diseases especially smallpox brought by American and European traders were most devastating to village societies Because diseases like smallpox are contagious densely settled areas like villages are most susceptible to their effects The nomadic tribes that hunted the bison full time were not hit nearly as badly as the village dwellers because the nomadic hunters were dispersed This greatly increased the power of the mobile hunters over the agricultural villages After being decimated by disease village tribes lacked the manpower to defend themselves against the lightning raids of the mobile hunters on their villages and crops This fact gave the remaining villagers one reason to abandon agriculture for a mobile way of lifeTrade provided yet another reason to change to nomadic bison hunting Initially the nomadic bison hunters would take the meat from their kills and trade with the village societies for crops to supplement the bison meat However with the advent of the fur trade in the early 19th Century trade began to take on a new role American and European fur traders wanted bison robes and the nomadic hunters of the Plains with their tremendous hunting skills were the ideal source Unfortunately for the bison this new form of trade uickly proved to be extremely exploitative Before the fur trade most Indian societies embraced the value of only killing enough bison to fill their needs But when offered access to European and American trade goods in exchange for bison robes this uickly changed With the onset of the robe trade the plains nomads like those Paleoindians who had helped to destroy the large herbivores of the Pleistocene epoch turned to the destruction of the bison 92Isenberg sees gender as a contributing factor in the move to exploitative bison hunting to feed the bison robe trade Before the move to the Plains when the Native Americans were settled in agricultural villages women played the important economic role of raising crops However once the tribes moved to full time nomadic bison hunting women became uneual in terms of food procurement Their economic role was reduced to preparing bison robes for trade This uneual economic arrangement helped lessen social restraints on exploitative tradeIndian hunters were by no means the sole cause of the decline of the bison Americans contributed in many ways Settlers and miners moved over the Great Plains in large numbers beginning in the 1840s Cattle ranchers would follow in the 1860s Each of these groups possessed livestock that foraged on the grasses of the Plains Settlers and ranchers naturally chose to settle the river valleys most endowed with natural resources namely timber grass and water These were also the areas most favored by the bison especially in the winter As the bison lost access to these important areas their chances of survival diminished The bison s chance of survival reached its nad. Ns and Euroamericans in the Great Plains was the central cause of the near extinction of the bison Drought and the incursion of domestic livestock and exotic species such as horses into the Great Plains all threatened the Western ecosystem which was further destabilized as interactions between
Andrew C Isenberg is the Hall Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of Kansas He is a specialist in environmental history Native American history and the history of the North American West and its borderlands