Thursday, July 26, 2018

Lakota Sioux Buffalo Hunting: A Case Study in the Importance of Roles

hunting plackard in badlands south dakota

badlands south dakota

Pictures from my trip to the Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

The Plains Indian buffalo hunts provide an excellent example of clear scope, clear “why,” defined roles, and matching roles with skills.

The scope of the Buffalo hunt – to get at least enough buffalo so that they could feed the tribe and provide raw materials for clothing, lodging, and other purposes.

The “why” – to not starve.

The people who participated in these hunts stayed focus on the task at hand.  I don’t see much evidence that they were distracted during the hunt … picking medicinal herbs or hunting prairie dogs. It was understood that the project was challenging enough that it would require everyone’s focus and the “why” was something everyone involved could get behind.

Each role played an important part in the success of the hunt.  I don’t know the official name of these roles and I might be missing a key role, but this is what I have been able to put together without embarking on significant academic research.

Each of these roles and when the role would be performed was clearly defined.

This video provides a decent view of what these hunts looked like and how each resource played its role.

Though our projects typically do not have starvation as our driving “why” – business projects are typically started for a reason and will at least start with a scope of activity and people who can perform particular roles within the project.

Our job, in the business environment, is to make sure that the people on the team know what role they play, why that role is important for the success of the project, why the project is important, and have a clear understanding of the desired end result.

It may not be as clear as hunting buffalo to avoid starvation, but we owe it to our teams to provide as much clarity as possible.

Online Resources


Native-American NetRoots

North Dakota Studies – State Historical Society of North Dakota

Chad Folsom – Lesson Plan for Elementary School (George Mason University project)

The Atlantic – Buffalo Killers

Historians Revisit Slaughter on the Plains


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