The Indian Country, 1800: A Brilliant Plan for Living
Creators Gifts Men and Women A Vast Network


Calling the Buffalo

The Mandan considered buffalo to be one of the most important gifts given by the creators.

The Mandan Buffalo Calling ceremony was intended to attract the buffalo herds close to the village by reenacting the story of a visit of twelve buffalo bulls to a poor and hungry young man. Twelve older men line up holding red sticks to symbolize life force brought to the village by the buffalo. They face young men accompanied by their wives who wear only buffalo robes. In the course of the ceremony, the older men transfer the life force to the women through sexual intercourse. The women, in turn, pass this force on to the young men.

Alfred Bowers. “Arrangement of the Lodge for the Buffalo Dancer,” in Mandan Social and Ceremonial Organization, 1950.

Click to Enlarge
© The University of Chicago. All rights reserved