The bison was the main source of food for the Native Americans of the Plains. The people ate not only the meat, but the tongue and many other internal organs (brain, liver) as well. The blood was used in soup and puddings.

The meat was eaten fresh from the hunt or preserved. Fresh meat was often cooked in a stew. Meat that could not be eaten right away was made into jerky, pemmican, or sausages.

This woman is making pemmican. Pemmican was a very popular food to take on hunting trips because it was light to carry and very nutritious. Pemmican stored in airtight containers would keep for several years.

To make pemmican, she grinds up jerky with a coarse stone, which she then mixes with melted suet and dried berries. Then she forms this mixture into strips and stores them in a container such as a buffalo stomach.


Jerky: Meat cut into strips and dried in the sun or cured by exposing to smoke.

Suet: The hard fatty tissues around the kidneys of cattle and sheep, used in cooking and for making tallow

Tallow: Hard fat obtained from parts of the bodies of cattle, sheep, or horses, and used in foodstuffs or to make candles, leather dressing, soap, and lubricants.

Gristle: Cartilage, especially when present in meat.

Cartilage: A tough, elastic, fibrous connective tissue found in various parts of the body.