Buffalo were hunted almost to extinction as a means of genocide in the Plains Indian Wars.

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Buffalo were hunted almost to extinction as a means of genocide in the Plains Indian Wars.

Bison, Givers of Life: Lakota Women Speak

Women on the Pine Ridge Reservation talk about the spiritual, cultural and nutritional role that the American buffalo, or bison, has played in tribal life historically and today.

Their words are especially telling given this week's feature on Indian Country Today Media Network about the slaughter of bison as a method of genocide.

RELATED: Genocide by Other Means: U.S. Army Slaughtered Buffalo in Plains Indian Wars

"It provided us our shelter, our food, our weapons, our toys—we played with the toe bones, that we called bone horses—and we made the ribs into sleds," says Charlotte Black Elk. "So it provided us with everything. And it's also a spiritual connection…. It's impossible to totally explain how important the buffalo is to us. The buffalo is life."

Monica Terkildsen speaks to the nutritional content and the environmental sustainability of the buffalo.

"We lost that, and now we're trying to regain that," she tells the camera. "And if we can get the health of our people back, we will become a very strong nation again."

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