Plains Indians required large quantities of meat and hides for food, shelter, clothing, and other material needs. Harvesting as many buffalo as needed by hunting on foot in the severe winter weather would be nearly impossible. Therefore, northern Plains tribes conducted communal hunts in autumn to procure the meat and hides they needed before the onset of harshest weather.
For 300 years (1500 to 1800 A.D.), various Plains Indian tribes repeatedly used this natural sinkhole as a trap to kill buffalo. Excavations suggests that 10,000 or more buffalo were killed here in 25 to 30 hunts, and that five or more tribes used this site during the period. The communal hunts likely required the concerted efforts of several hundred people involved three stages: 1) gathering and driving the herd to the kill site; 2) skinning and butchering, which occurred in the sinkhole; and 3) processing the meat and hides in a nearby camp. Most of this activity was done on foot, using dogs as beasts of burden. Horses were not acquired by the Indians in this region until the late 1700s.