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Wednesday, June 5 • 1:30pm - 1:55pm
Harvesting the Prairie Fringe: Native American Bison Hunting on West Houston Prairies

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An extensive archaeological database of SE Texas created by the Houston Archaeological Society has been connected via GIS technology to a set of new paleogeographic maps of the Texas coastline in order to chart the early development of the Native American people of coastal southeastern Texas from the Late Pleistocene to the early Historic Era. The data in particular highlight the use of the prairie environment by early hunter-gatherers. The Akokisa band of the coastal Atakapa and their predecessors lived along Galveston Bay and along streams in inland coastal prairies. They maintained a dual lifestyle of seasonal camps on the coast, where they consumed fish, oysters, and clams, and inland hunting camps where they sought bison, deer, and smaller prey. This hunting occurred on the ‘prairie fringe,’ an area southwest of the dense Pineywoods forest where wooded streams project into the broad coastal prairie. Archeological data show that Native Americans, who before about 1700 had no horses, used these branching forested streams to funnel bison and deer into steep arroyo-like stream floors, probably using prairie fire as a driving force. As the bison tumbled from steep banks into the stream beds, they were momentarily slowed, and the harvest ensued. Favorably located small parts of western Buffalo Bayou, White Oak Bayou, and Cypress Creek were used for this purpose from at least 12,000 BP (Before Present) to the early Historic Era. In this manner, the west Houston prairie landscape was sculpted and kept free of intruding woody growth for thousands of years before the arrival of Anglo- and African-American settlers. 


Dan Worrall

Author, Harris County Historical Commission

Wednesday June 5, 2019 1:30pm - 1:55pm CDT
Room 1218