Buffalo (also known as bison) play an important role in Native American folklore, particularly the
folklore of Plains Indian tribes. Buffalo were one of the most important food sources for Plains tribes,
but they were hard to hunt in the days before guns and horses, so there were many rituals, dances, and
prayers in Plains Indian tribes related to the difficult and dangerous but life-sustaining art of buffalo
hunting. In many Plains Indian myths, buffalo gave themselves up willingly as a food source for humans,
and therefore have a special position of honor and respect.
In other myths, buffalo spirits bring sacred
knowledge about medicine or peace pipes to humankind. Southern Plains legends often involve Coyote
or another hero releasing buffalo on the earth to help feed the people. There are also many cautionary tales
in which buffalo hunts are unsuccessful or result in hunters' deaths because people have failed to respect
the buffalo properly. Buffalo are seen as spiritually powerful in many tribes, especially in the Great Plains
reghion; their horns and hides were often used for regalia and religious artifacts, and they are viewed as
symbols of honor and generosity. In other tribal regions, buffalo are not considered as
sacred as they are in Plains and Plateau tribes, but they still play positive roles
in most Native American folklore, frequently associated with strength, endurance, and protection.
Buffalo are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Buffalo Clans
include the Caddo, the Osage, and the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.