The Buffalo Hunt
The Métis of the Great Plains were great buffalo hunters. Since the buffalo were constantly moving to bigger and better pastures, many Métis became nomadic, following the buffalo.
The beginnings of Métis self-government evolved from the buffalo hunt. The hunt involved the organization of hundreds of men, women and children; carts and horses for westward journeys that extended hundreds of miles. At the time there was no commercial or military activity that rivalled the magnitude of the buffalo hunt.
After days of travel, camp was made and the first organizational meeting for the hunt was held. Leaders were elected to lay out procedures of the hunt and every detail was thoroughly planned to carry the hunt to its fullest potential. Rules were drafted, some of which dealt with religious duties and others to prevent any foul-ups during the course of the hunt.
The buffalo hunt is an excellent example of the Métis community's traditional commitment to caring for its weaker members: planned into the hunt was the number of buffalo necessary to provide for those who were elderly, infirm or without a hunter in the family. Those people were cared for during the planning process of the hunt.
As well, the buffalo hunt was an important element in shaping the Métis into a cohesive political and military unit. Each hunt had ten captains. Each captain had his soldiers who shared the scouting duties. This group of elected leaders presided over the hunting expedition. They established rules and laws and ensured they were obeyed. These rules were later know as "Laws of the Prairies" and were followed by those many individuals who later settled the plains of North America.
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