Hand-painted ceramic buffalo skull. Approx. 5 3/4 inches wide, and 5 inches long.
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 region; 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.