Few animals conjure the power and symbolic presence of the North American bison.
Whether painted on a tipi or an artistís canvas, minted on a nickel, or seen grazing in Yellowstone National Park, the image of the bison stirs in us deep loyalties to the North American landscape. Wild and fundamental, the bison is a familiar part of our shared heritage.
Originating from the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana, The Bison: American Icon explores the meaning and significance of this iconic creature from the Plains Indian culture of the 1800s through the commercial and national symbol of the present. Along the way, The Bison charts the dramatic changes that occurred to the creature and its habitat, and to the people who depended upon it for their daily existence. The exhibition also illuminates the human response that eventually led to the bisonís preservation as a species and a symbol in the twentieth century.
The exhibition opens with a primary mystery: For thousands of years until the early 1860s, there were tens of millions of bison roaming the plains of North America. By 1890, there were fewer than 300. What happened? Centered on this question, The Bison explores the ďbeforeĒ and ďafterĒ of the bisonís dramatic decline. The exhibition also shows how the bisonís seeming extinction was ultimately averted by conservationists. In charting this positive outcome, the exhibition explores the many ways that the bisonís identity was transformed yet again into a symbol of America and a popular image that appeared on everything from soft drink bottles to national currency. The Bison also shows how the animal still inspires contemporary Native American artists, continuing a living relationship between Plains peoples and a creature thathas always held a special significance for them.