Courtesy of Visit Great Falls and the C.M. Russell Museum

For the Plains Indians of Montana, the buffalo was more than a food source; it was sacred. Many since have come to regard the animal as an icon of the West, including cowboy artist Charlie Russell, who regularly depicted bison in his works and even adopted a buffalo skull as his insignia. For these reasons, in 2003, the C.M. Russell Museum launched the Buffalo Hunt Project—a celebration of art, history, and culture. More than two dozen fiberglass bison were brought to life by local artists to create unique three- dimensional artworks.

To this day, most of the Buffalo Hunt Project sculptures (including the following) can be found throughout Great Falls, each one serving as a reminder of our Western heritage and of the artistic talents that can be found beneath the Big Sky.

Rainboffalo

Milwaukee Station | 1 River Drive
The “Rainboffalo” combines the graceful flowing freedom of a Rainbow Trout with the dignity and scale of the buffalo. It symbolizes Chris Miller’s long-time love of the water and a respect for the freedom that wild animals enjoy. With wood, foam, plaster, clay, fiberglass, and metal, the buffalo was transformed into a buffalo-trout, covered with nearly 1,600 aluminum scales.

The Seven Brothers

Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce | 100 1st Avenue North
Karen Bonnie painted her buffalo to represent the Cheyenne myth “The Seven Brothers,” or “Quill Woman,” which is a story about how seven brothers rescued their sister from the buffalo nation that wanted to take her for their own because of the beauty of her quillwork.

The eight climbed to the heavens and became the Big Dipper, as shown on the buffalo’s face. Karen Bonnie sees horses as heroic, powerful, fun-loving and affectionate beings, and she tries to express this to the viewer in her work.

Faces of the West

KOA Campground | 1500 51st Street South
Susan Blackwood decided to represent the New West as well as the Old West in the faces she painted on each side. The buffalo’s left side represents the faces of the Old West, the heroes and common folk typical of the old romantic West when the buffalo ran in huge herds. The right side represents the many faces of the present West. The stars that shine along the top of the buffalos and tumble down among the 34 faces on both sides remind all who see this buffalo that all of us who have lived and are living here are the true “stars of the West.”

Saving the Buffalo

US Bank | 1700 10th Avenue South
The buffalo nickel is now a rare and valuable coin, just as the buffalo was once a rare and almost extinct animal. Now the buffalo has
been saved? The “buffalo bank” with buffalo and Indian head nickels, complete with a coin being deposited in the slot at the top, is symbolic of “saving the buffalo” (dreamed up by artist Howard Friedland).

Morning Star Buffalo

First Interstate Bank | 2601 10th Avenue South
The idea for this buffalo came to Pam Houston as she was brainstorming in her studio. She started with a list relating to the buffalo as a symbol. Pam wanted something spiritual, and she wanted to convey something meaningful, happy, and uplifting. Women had to be included along with lots of color. The Morning Star quilt fit all her needs. This quilt replaced the buffalo hide as an important gift during the traditional “Give Away” in the Plains Indian culture. This was Pam’s chance to be part of a “Give Away.” She wanted to honor the Plains Indian women with her Morning Star Buffalo.

America’s Great Plains

DA Davidson Company | 2nd Street & Central Avenue
Barbara Ivey wanted to include Native American symbols in her theme of America’s Great Plains. These symbols include the rain clouds, lightning and rain, and the sun above the mountains and canyon; animals running acorss the plains; and the hands of the Native Americans on one side and the heart line flowing into the heart of the plains with its mountains, canyons, and tracks of animals running in wide open places on the other.

Mighty Mo

Sletten Cancer Institute | 1117 29th Street South
This buffalo has brought back wonderful childhood memories of growing up in Fort Benton, Montana, where Julie Pederson-Atkins was able to hike along the riverbanks hunting
for arrowheads and interesting little creatures, exploring caves, and carving pictures with sticks into the soft decaying bark of ancient trees. Her dad, Oscar “Pete” Pederson, taught her to respect and admire nature. The Eye of the Needle, the Great White Cliffs, and the Hole in the Wall are just a few of Nature’s paintings on the Missouri that Julie will keep with her forever.

Buffalo Birches

Dahlquist Realtors | 500 Country Club Boulevard
Inspired by the beauty he has seen along the Rocky Mountain Front and the Missouri River, Michael Patterson depicted the habitat of the once plentiful buffalo. This large buffalo “canvas” provided him with the space to present these two wide and awe-inspiring vistas in some detail. Since he is also fond of birch trees, he decided to frame his work with the birches to give it a sense of proportion.

For more information, visit visitgreatfallsmontana.org/the-great-buffalo-hunt.

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