Colorado State University’s American West Program Concludes with Discussion of Buffalo as ‘staff of Life’ to Plains Indians

The final meeting on July 25 of this year’s American West Program at Colorado State University will feature an illustrated lecture on the importance of the buffalo in Plains Indian religion and culture. The talk, free and open to the public, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Room C146 Plant Sciences Building.

JoAllyn Archambault, member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and director of the American Indian Program at the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution, will discuss the buffalo as the "staff of life" to the Plains Indian tribes of the 19th century and for centuries prior to that.

"While Indian people harvested many other plant and animal species for sustenance, the single most important source of food and material culture was the buffalo," Archambault said. "In addition to providing food, the hides, horns, bones, hair, organs hooves and sinew provided clothing, shelter, tools, thread, rope and dozens of specific items made from the buffalo.

"Given the importance of the buffalo to daily life and survival, it is not surprising that the animal was and continues to be central to the religious life of native people. (The buffalo’s) spirit is honored in contemporary native religions of many tribes today as witnessed in public and private rituals and the daily life of families."

Archambault received a doctorate from the University of California-Berkeley, where she was lecturer in Native American Studies from 1976-79. She also was department chairwoman and lecturer at California College of Arts and Crafts from 1979-83, acting director of Native American Studies at California State University-Hayward from 1980-81 and assistant professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Wisconsin from 1983-86. She has been with the Smithsonian since 1986 and received the Smithsonian Special Award for Outstanding Service to the Institution in 1990.

In conjunction with the American West Program, the Curfman Gallery in the Lory Student Center is presenting "Images of the West" by artist Bob Coonts.

For more information, call Harry Rosenberg, program coordinator, at 491-5230.