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:
- How did the Illinois hunt bison?
- How many did they kill in one day in the hunt that Pierre de Liette described?
- How many did they kill in the whole expedition?
- If an average bison yields around six hundred pounds of potentially useful meat, what does this tell you about the Illinois' bison economy?
- Was this a "sustainable" lifeway? Was it "exploitative?"
- How does Liette's description compare and contrast with the popular mythology surrounding later, equestrian Native American bison hunters?
- Pierre de Liette, "Memoir concerning the Illinois Country, ca. 1693," in Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, vol. XXIII: The French Foundations, ed. Theodore Calvin Pease and Raymond C. Werner (Springfield, 1934), 307–18.
- Nicolas Perrot, "Memoir on the Manners, Customs, and Religion of the Savages of North America," in The Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi Valley and Region of the Great Lakes, ed. Emma Helen Blair (2 vols., Lincoln, 1911). I, 121–25.
- Antoine Denis Raudot, "Memoir Concerning the Different Indian Nations of North America." in The Indians of the Western Great Lakes, 1615–1760, ed. W. Vernon Kinietz (Ann Arbor, 1940), 407–8.
- Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz, "Chasse génèrale au Boeuf, mais à pied," (Non-equestrian bison hunting), in Histoire de Louisiane, by Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz (Paris, 1758). Courtesy Rare Book and Manuscript Room, University of Illinois, Urbana. The depiction of non-equestrian bison hunting presented by Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz resembles many of the descriptions from eyewitnesses to the Illinois in the contact period.