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The Journal of American History


Exercise 3: Tallgrass Prairies

The environment of the Illinois Valley contained a special advantage for the Illinois: bison.

In the Classroom

Review the description of a bison hunt with the Illinois by Pierre de Liette, a French official who lived in the Illinois Country at the end of the seventeenth century, and the account by Nicholas Perrot, a French trader and diplomat in the western Great Lakes during the same period, and answer the following questions:

  1. How did the Illinois hunt bison?
  2. How many did they kill in one day in the hunt that Pierre de Liette described?
  3. How many did they kill in the whole expedition?
  4. If an average bison yields around six hundred pounds of potentially useful meat, what does this tell you about the Illinois' bison economy?
  5. Was this a "sustainable" lifeway? Was it "exploitative?"
  6. How does Liette's description compare and contrast with the popular mythology surrounding later, equestrian Native American bison hunters?

Sources