Increasing numbers of visiting Americans on the Great Plains and the demand for bison robes and leather led to extreme bison overhunting during the nineteenth century. Hunting for entertainment and buffalo hides was primarily the activity of American and European hunters, who did not follow Indigenous practices of sustainability. First Nations and Metis practice dictated that individuals did not shoot more than what was needed. They also generally used the entire carcass (sometimes the head was left behind as it was difficult to transport). For example, the meeting of the Cree Council at Fort Qu'Appelle in 1857 (see related entry) demonstrates the concerns of Cree leadership as it relates to the unsustainable hunting practices being used by an influx of Euro-Canadians. By 1875, herds had significantly dwindled; by 1879, buffalo were at a point of near-extinction. As the buffalo economy dwindled and the settler capitalist economy increased in influence, buffalo robe tariffs were also being enacted on the American border, preventing Metis people from making a living from this activity. Many Metis in Manitoba were simultaneously being dispossessed of their lands through the Manitoba Act and the scrip distribution process. These economic pressures sometimes forced the Metis and other Indigenous hunting parties to divert from their practices of sustainability.
The Bison’s disappearance also had major consequences for the First Nations inhabitants of the western interior.