A Brief History of Bison
As shown in the Traditional Uses image, originally, North American Plains Indians used just about every part of the bison. Their lives revolved around the availability of bison. But by the 1890s this all changed as the bison were being eliminated by European settlers.
This occurred for two reasons. First, there was the greed factor. Initially, bison were considered to be in limitless supply. For non-native buffalo hunters, they were the equivalent of a gold mine on four legs. This group hunted bison from trains and horseback for their tongues, hides, bones, and little else. The tongue was, and still is, considered a delicacy. Hides were prepared and shipped to the east and Europe for processing into leather. Remaining carcasses were, for the most part, left to rot. By the time nothing but bones remained, they too were gathered and shipped via rail to eastern destinations for processing into industrial carbon and fertilizer.
By the 1890s with numbers nearing extinction, the bison “gold rush” was over.
At the same time, the American government openly encouraged elimination of this primary food source for the Plains Indians. In eliminating this basic food (and survival) source, the Indians would be forced into relatively small areas, or north into Canada, where food sources were either scarce or non-existent. The results were starvation and high infant mortality amongst the Indian population. In the end the west was open to European settlement and start of the western beef industry.
From: www.bisonbasics.com. Additional reference: American Buffalo by Steven Runella.