Descent of Civilization (Bison Memorial)
A permanent outdoor sculpture by Marc Swanson, commissioned by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

The American West was once dominated by massive herds of bison (aka American Buffalo) roaming freely. Their population, believed to be 40 to 80 million in 1800, had dwindled to fewer than a hundred by the 1890s.

Many have debated the environmental and cultural factors that brought these majestic animals to near extinction, but there is no disputing that westward expansion, and ultimately man, was responsible.

In the words of renowned zoologist William T. Hornaday (1854-1937), “The primary cause of the buffalo’s extermination, and the one which embraced all others, was the descent of civilization, with all its elements of destructiveness, upon the whole of the country inhabited by that animal.”

This piece is in memorial to those great herds that once blanketed the North American continent.