From Bison to Cattle: The Ecology of the Southern Plains 1500-1750

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Tifft-Ochoa, Jenni
Bison; Migration; Southern Plains; Mission; Spanish; Cattle; Ranches; Demography, Population, and Ecology; Environmental Studies; History; Human Ecology; Human Geography; Latin American History; Latin American Studies; Migration Studies; United States History
paper description
Bison made their home on the Southern Plains for millennia. However, their migratory patterns began to shift in the 17th and 18th centuries. My research investigated what caused this drastic shift and how it had far reaching effects on the ecology of the Southern Plains. Using archives from two prominent Catholic priests, I began to piece together why the bison left the Southern Plains. Rather than focus on the Europeans as the main players, I instead focused on the Indigenous peoples, the animals, and the land as the centralized actors in this project. I discovered that the introduction of cattle by the Spanish missions was the leading factor. As the cattle quickly consumed the resources, the bison had to find additional inhabitable spaces. Their swift departure from the Southern Plains resulted in upheaval for the Indigenous inhabitants and the ecology of the Plains themselves.