This rather shocking photo was taken in the late 19th century near Detroit and features a mountain of bison skulls. The skulls were ground down and used for fertilizer and charcoal. The bison is of course a sacred and spiritual symbol of Native American history, and at one stage it’s believed they roamed the plains in numbers as high as 60 million, providing food, clothing, shelter, and fuel for Native American tribes.
So why kill bison in such high numbers? A combination of different factors played a part, firstly the growing export market for buffalo skins and bison meat resulted in larger and larger numbers being killed and herds became unsustainable. Another key factor was the railroad industry which wanted bison herds culled or eliminated as herds of bison on tracks caused delays and potential disasters. Bison hunting also benefited ranchers as it allowed them to range their cattle without competition from bison. Sadly a major factor was that killing bison in huge numbers weakened the North American Indian population as it denied them a key source of food. Either way a beautiful animal was hunted to almost extinction.