Pride and Prejudice Against the Bison

During the past half-billion years, there have been just five global mass-extinction events. For example, the impact of a comet crash likely extinguished dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Maya Lin is documenting the sixth extinction event which is occurring today. According to the renowned Harvard biologist, E. O. Wilson, 30,000 species are vanishing from Earth each year. They are all eligible for representation in Maya Lin's ambitious project, "What is Missing". This 'map of memory' presents species, places, and natural phenomenon that have vanished, or are disappearing.While Lin often features micro and macro views of the earth that are registered through sonar resonance scans and aerial and satellite mapping devices,  straightforward photographs are still powerful conveyors of the extent and magnitude of this disturbance. No computer graphics or photo manipulations are required to transmit the devastation of the bisons on this continent in the 1800s.


This photo documents the tens of thousands of bison that were slaughtered in the 1870s. At the same time, the posture of the man standing in front of a mountain of bison skullsit broadcasts the guilt-free pride of having accomplished this deed. This iconic American species was systematically slaughtered because they factored into the US Army’s ‘military’ strategy to starve Native American tribes who depended on the bison for food, leaving them with choosing between surrendering and dieing of starvation.Bison are gradually repopulating the Great Plains. Groups like Earthjustice are fighting to on their behalf: But the disruption of Native American lives will probably never be recovered.