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The Slaughter of the Bison and Reversal of Fortunes on the Great Plains

Donna Feir (), Rob Gillezeau and Maggie E.C. Jones
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Maggie E.C. Jones: University of Victoria, https://maggiejones.ca/

No 1-2019, Center for Indian Country Development series from Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Abstract: In the late 19th century, the North American bison was brought to the brink of extinction in just over a decade. We show that the bison’s slaughter led to a reversal of fortunes for the Native Americans who relied on them. Once the tallest people in the world, the generations of bison-reliant people born after the slaughter were among the shortest. Today, formerly bison-reliant societies have between 20-40% less income per capita than the average Native American nation. We argue that federal Indian policy that limited out-migration from reservations and restricted employment opportunities to crop based agriculture hampered the ability of bison-reliant societies to adjust in the long-run, generating lasting regional disparities associated with other indicators of social dislocation, such as suicide and unrest.

Keywords: North American Bison; Buffalo; Extinction; Economic History; Development; Displacement; Native Americans; Indigenous; Income Shock; Intergenerational Mobility (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I15 J15 J24 N31 N32 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his and nep-lab
Date: 2019-01-14
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