I care for these lands as they care for me

a bison's eye view of Elk Island National Park

Baby bison frolicking by Steve EdgertonParks Canada

I am a plains bison and I live in a herd

of mothers, aunties and calves. My youngest calf was born just this spring. I watch over her and share stories of how big and strong she'll become, with a big shoulder hump and a winter coat so thick that the heat from her skin won't melt the snow that lands on her.

Short Audio: Birds, bison, and wind

My home is an abundant and connected community

of birds, trees, grasses and bees. We live together in the meeting place of wetlands, grasslands and aspen forest. Parks Canada cares for and protects us in an area now known as Elk Island National Park.

A bison in the frost by Steven EdgertonParks Canada

I love these lands.

The plains have been a home for me and my family for thousands of years. I feel connected to the histories, languages, and cultures of Treaty 6 and Métis peoples. Their presence continues to enrich this community.

Plains Bison Wallowing by Scott MairParks Canada

As I walk across these lands

ecosystems change and grow behind me. When I roll around and take a bath in the dry dirt, I create wallows that provide shelter and collect water for animals. Even when I poop, I create a home for insect eggs and return seeds and nutrients to the soil. 

Lii Buflo art: Bison falling off a cliff by Jesse GoucheyParks Canada

There were once many more of us.

My ancestors flourished for centuries. We lived in large herds across the continent and supported all life, including humans. We offered them our bodies for food, tools, clothing, and many other necessities for their way of life.

Lii Buflo art: Metis woman playing drum by Jesse GoucheyParks Canada

In turn, we were offered spiritual and cultural connection.

Many Indigenous cultures value taking only what is needed, and wasting nothing. The First Nations and Métis of this area knew us by many names such as paskwaw mostoslii buflo or the buffalo.

Lii Buflo art: Metis camp by Jesse GoucheyParks Canada

Some Indigenous groups, such as the Métis, see us as their "fellow nation". We have always been important to their survival, culture, and history. 

As more people settled here, our world started to change.

Our favourite grasses began to struggle to grow as new plants were introduced. Some of these new plants tasted bad or even made us sick. The natural cycle of fire was put out, allowing aging dry forests to take over the grasslands.

Peel Post Card #5106Parks Canada

We were almost entirely erased from the landscape.

Our grasslands were fenced away for cattle, who brought new sicknesses our bodies didn't know how to fight. They hunted more of us than they could ever eat, letting our bodies go to waste. Without us, many Indigenous people went hungry.

Bison cows and calves in the frost by Steve EdgertonParks Canada

From 30 million to less than 1,000.

My ancestors were one of the last remaining herds. They were brought to Elk Island where we have since grown in good health for over 100 years. We were later joined by our cousins, the wood bison. Today the knowledge of Indigenous guardians is woven into the care of both herds.

Short Audio: Birds, bison, and wind

I am grateful to live in the park as it exists today.

Parks Canada works hard to make life better for my herd and to share our story with the world. We are kept safe from disease and grasslands are being restored for me and my calves to thrive, and for visitors to enjoy for many years to come.

Cow with calf in the grass by Wayne HopeParks Canada

We now thrive in the park and beyond the fence.

As we grow in numbers, many of my relatives have moved all over the world to repopulate the land. Some have returned to Indigenous friends to embrace long standing bonds.

Lii Buflo art: Bison in the trees by Jesse GoucheyParks Canada

When I look to the future I feel hope

for the continuing and strengthening relationship with Elk Island National Park, Indigenous peoples of this land and future generations.

Drone footage of bison moving toward the right (2022) by Parks CanadaParks Canada

I am content knowing that my calves will grow up to start their own families, and pass on this legacy.

Learn more about Elk Island National Park:


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