vorebuffalojump
The Vore Buffalo Jump is located outside of Sundance, Wyoming, not far from the state’s eastern border with South Dakota. Photo courtesy Jaqueline Wyatt
Cheyenne memories: The Buffalo Jump
Centuries of Buffalo Jump hunting documented
Thursday, December 10, 2020

The memories and oral history knowledge of John Stands In Timber, Northern Cheyenne tribal historian and elder, were captured in Cheyenne Memories, Margot Liberty, 1972. These memories painstakingly collected over the years are considered highly accurate.

One of the memories came from Stands In Timbers’ grandparents who told how they as children hunted buffalo in a “big hole” near present day Sundance, Wyoming. This could very well refer to the Vore Buffalo Jump (VBJ) which is near Sundance and between Devil’s Tower and the Black Hills, then a highly traveled route for many Plains Tribes, including the Northern Cheyenne. The VBJ, a historic and archaeological site documents that various Plains Tribes used this location and method of harvesting buffalo for about three centuries.

Recently, this writer was invited for a personal tour, meeting with Vore Foundation Board members Glenn Wyatt, Theodore “Ted” Vore, Dr. Richard Littlebear and Dr. Jacqueline Wyatt, Director.

Vore Buffalo Jump: Aerial View

Glenn Wyatt grew up in Pine Ridge because his father M.T. “Jack” Wyatt was a Bureau of Indian Affairs superintendent stationed there. Ted Vore is the treasurer, representing the Vore family on the non-profit Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation (VBJF).

Dr. Littlebear, Northern Cheyenne, president of Chief Dull Knife Memorial College, like other advisors serves on a volunteer non-paid basis. Other Board and Advisory members include archaeologists, teachers, area representatives and Vore family members.

“The Vore Buffalo Jump is a part of our history which should be told and shared with the world,” Dr. Littlebear emphasized. “It’s right in our back yard – the heart of our ancestral lands, easily accessible to educators, students from Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas. This amazing site is visited by people from around the globe.”

In addition, I participated in a virtual learning session, prepared by Jacqueline Wyatt who is the VBJF Board President. The learning tool is excellent, beginning with a re-enactment of the dangerous and labor-intensive method of harvesting buffalo through a jump, taken from a movie Into the West.

The Zoom video is extremely well done and elicited many questions from the 4th grade audience, non-Indians in this instance and even from this much older Cheyenne viewer, all which Dr. Wyatt handled in a professional, knowledgeable manner, very respectful to Tribal people. Plans are underway to update the video with Dr. Littlebear narrating. The video can be accessed for no cost. For more information visit the VBJ website: infor@vorebuffalojump.org.

The site buried under layers of soil with heavy gypsum and limestone content is located on the Doris and Woodrow Vore Ranch. It was accidentally discovered in 1969 when the State of Wyoming was working to build Interstate 1-90, including soil studies. A core sample revealed at least 13 feet of bison bones and artifacts, all layered. The site covered with layers of soil and sediment was not previously visible. Everyone was quite surprised to find it, Ted Vore noted.

The Vore family recognized the historic and archaeological significance of the site and determined to preserve it to document history about tribal people in the region. Although it wasn’t easy, professionals from the University of Wyoming, the family and archaeological community prevailed and the State re-routed the highway at some expense which has allowed the site to be preserved.

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Clara Caufield can be reached at acheyennevoice@gmail.com

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