The power of a wild animal to help people: two more First Nations sign historic treaty to bring wild buffalo back to tribal lands

Stoney Nakoda and Samson Cree chiefs sign the Northern Tribes Buffalo treaty in Banff National Park August, 2015. Photo by Harvey Locke

Harvey Locke

Can the return of a wild animal to its native range help people? Many North American Plains Indians are sure that bringing back wild bison can do just that. This month in Banff National Park three bands of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation and the Samson Cree Nation joined several other tribes to sign the Northern Tribes Buffalo Treaty. This landmark event marks another step forward in the long walk to restore wild bison in North America.

Stoney Nakoda and Samson Cree chiefs sign the Northern Tribes Buffalo treaty in Banff National Park August, 2015. Photo by Harvey Locke

For aboriginal people of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains of North America the plains bison was the center of life. Also known as “buffalo“ these massive animals with a big hump on their back provided food, shelter and spiritual guidance to many different cultures before Europeans arrived. They roamed the plains and grassy front range valleys of the Rocky Mountains. There were countless millions of them.

Bison provided shelter, food and spiritual guidance to Plains Indians. This tipi was erected at the initial Buffalo Treaty signing ceremony in Browning, Montana September, 2014. Photo by Harvey Locke

Buffalo were nearly wiped out in the late 1870s by a mix of overhunting and a policy of deliberate extermination. Conservation efforts by far-sighted First Nations people and early conservationists saved them from extinction just in the nick of time. From a handful or survivors large herds have been bred. But most of them live in captivity. Fewer than 10,000 plains bison roam freely today.

The next great step in bison conservation is for wild bison to roam freely to perform an ecological role on the landscape. Bison graze in unique ways that create habitats for other species and they serve as prey —> Read More

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail