Haunting Photos From The Era That Almost Wiped Out The American Bison
On a winter day in December 1867, a train took off from Fort Hays, Kansas. Rumbling across the prairie, it slowed as it neared a herd of bison. Then a hail of bullets exploded from the train windows, shattering the peace of the Great Plains, and felling the beasts where they stood. That was just the beginning of the American bison extermination.
By the 1860s, bison had roamed the Great Plains for 10,000 years. They numbered in the tens of millions, charging across the flat landscape in such a cacophony that people called it the "Thunder of the Plains." For generations, they'd provided Native Americans with food, clothing, and shelter.
But everything began to change after the Civil War. The railroad was snaking west, bringing with it new towns, trains, telegram lines, and eager settlers. Determined to allow western expansion to continue, the U.S. government decided to clear the way of Native Americans.