Perhaps no animal in the history of any nation has ever played a more important role than the Bison, or American Buffalo. The Bison was the most important animal on the American plains and prairies. He even surpassed the mustang and the longhorn cattle in importance. As a social factor, the Bison's influence on Native American Indians and the white man alike was tremendous. In America, the economic and social impact exceeded that of the beaver and the whale.
Had the more educated white settlers arrived on the plains and prairies with the early settlers, we probably would have a more accurate picture of the wild plains Bison of a century or more ago. But it is doubtful whether they could have saved the animal from its eventual fate. The killing of millions upon millions of Bison was inevitable. The countless millions of Bison roaming the western plains and prairies provided food, clothing, and other necessities for the Plains Indians. Bison dominated all phases of their lives: their thinking, their philosophy, their religion. So long as there were Bison, the Indians maintained their strength, courage, and freedom.
But without their Bison, the Indians were conquered, and the land was taken by ranchers and settlers. Even if there had been no Indians on the land, the Bison would still have been in the way of the white man. Bison ate the free grass the ranchers wanted for cattle, and they roamed the land the settlers wanted to till to raise crops. The Bison had to be cleared away from the land, and they were. If it had not been for a few insightful men late in the 19th century, and early in the 20th, the Bison would long ago have perished. Because a handful of men captured a few wild bison and raised them in captivity during the 1880's and 1890's, the Bison was saved.