Our Buffalo Hunts
A recollection of the Métis buffalo hunts from Victoria Callihoo (1861-1966). The story was originally printed in the Winter 1960 issue of Alberta Historical Review, Volume 8, Number 1. This story is significant because it is a first hand account of one of the last great buffalo hunts in Western Canada. Once the mainstay of the Métis lifestyle and economy, by the late 19th century the prairie herds had all been wiped out, forcing the Métis to adapt an agricultural lifestyle. Victoria Callihoo herself was a noted Métis historian who lived to be 105 years old. Here follows a brief biography from Library and Archives Canada:
Victoria Belcourt Callihoo was born in Lac Ste. Anne, a Métis community northwest of Edmonton. Living in Lac Ste. Anne for all her 104 years, she witnessed the many changes in Canadian life that took place in this time period. Questioning the value of money the first time she saw it, she preferred the "fur" system of barter which did not foster the hoarding of wealth. She was more approving of the telephone, as it permitted Callihoo, a woman related by blood or marriage to the Cree, Iroquois and French, to communicate in the language of her choice.
The daughter of a Cree medicine woman, she went to her first buffalo hunt in a Red River cart at age 13, when the great western bison herds could still be described as "a dark solid moving mass." She later farmed with her husband, Louis Callihoo, and raised 12 children. An expert teamster, she also freighted for the Hudson's Bay Company between Edmonton and Athabasca Landing.
Callihoo's vivid recollections, outlined in the Alberta Historical Review, are a remarkable window into 19th-century Métis daily life and customs. Indeed, she was still dancing the laborious Red River jig "the way it should be done" well past the age of 100.
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