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6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Biology, History, Justice

Regional Focus

North America, United States


YouTube Video

Why the U.S. Army Tried to Exterminate the Bison

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  • This video describes the history behind the near-extermination of bison in America, prompted by the United States government as settlers and the railroad moved west in the 1800s. 
  • It addresses the purpose of removing the bison to assist in driving native people off their lands, since they relied on the buffalo for food, clothing, shelter, and tools.
Teaching Tips


  • This video provides an interdisciplinary examination of species' population endangerment by considering environmental justice, history, and human pressures. 
  • Excellent photographs and news articles are analyzed and described.

Additional Prerequisites

  • There are commercials before the video.
  • Students should be familiar with the term "manifest destiny" and the removal of Indigenous peoples as the American West was settled. 
  • If this source is used in a science classroom, a short discussion of the historical context prior to watching the video will be helpful. 


  • Consider having students rewrite some of the news articles that are referenced from different perspectives: the U.S. Army, an Indigenous person, a U.S. settler, etc.
  • Have students work in pairs to discuss their thoughts and feelings related to the government's participation in removing an animal so important to Indigenous people. Prompt them with questions to discuss together. 
  • Another resource that may be of interest is Indigenous Communities are on the Front Lines of Climate Change.
Scientist Notes
This resource is an 8-minute video that presents the history of bison poaching and hunting in the U.S. in relation to Manifest Destiny colonialism and efforts to eliminate and assimilate Native American peoples. This resource is rather graphic, with depictions of hunting and skinning of bison and discussions of violence perpetrated against Native American peoples. Nonetheless, this resource is recommended for teaching.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: History
      • D2.His.1.6-8 Analyze connections among events and developments in broader historical contexts.
      • D2.His.12.6-8 Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to identify further areas of inquiry and additional sources.
      • D2.His.14.6-8 Explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in the past.
      • D2.His.1.9-12 Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
      • D2.His.5.9-12 Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people's perspectives.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.2 Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.
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