Bison hunting culture was relatively new to the Plains. Whereas most Indian peoples in the seventeenth century were settled farmers, the arrival of the horse made following and hunting bison a viable means of survival. Plains Indians developed a number of different, seasonal forms of hunting, from encircling the herd and shooting individual animals to driving them into natural enclosures or deep snow so that many could be taken at once. One of the most dramatic forms was the buffalo jump, in which hundreds of participants mounted or on foot surrounded a herd at strategic points and drove the bison over the side of a cliff. The wounded animals could then be killed and processed, sometimes by members of several different communities working together. This method had been in use on the Plains for centuries before the arrival of horses, and is documented at several archaeological sites, such as Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump near Ulm, Montana, and Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, near Three Forks, Montana.
This sketch is very close in style to Driving Herds of Buffalo Over a Precipice. Both are rendered in broad pastel washes strongly defined with pen and ink. They also share gracefully rendered horses and bison, their compact bodies contrasted by improbably delicate legs, as is characteristic of Miller’s early work.
UR: Crow Indian driving Buffalo/over a precipice.--by [this]/stratagum [sic] they are killed in/great numbers. Verso of mount: Lloyd O. Miller
The artist; Lloyd O. Miller; [Edward Eberstadt and Sons, New York, NY]; H.J. Lutcher Stark, Orange, TX, 1959; present owner: Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, Orange, Texas, by bequest, 1965, accessioned to the Stark Museum of Art, 1978