Members of the Káínawa – or Blood Tribe – are applying training in western science, alongside their Indigenous Knowledge, to bring buffalo back to their historical habitat in southern Alberta, the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy. Restoring this iconic animal is part of an intertribal effort to restore the Great Plains ecosystem and to reclaim the traditions of the Indigenous peoples who have occupied these lands since time immemorial.
Buffalo, also referred to as bison, were once an integral part of the grassland ecosystem. For the Blood Tribe, they also sustained their communities and are deeply connected to their traditional way of life. However, in the 1800s, colonization led to the near extinction of buffalo, impacting both the land and the Indigenous people who relied on them for survival. Justin Bruised Head, Kainai Iinni (Buffalo) Rematriation Project Coordinator with Blood Tribe Land Management, describes buffalo as a cultural keystone to his community. They are a culturally and spiritually significant species and intrinsic to many of their traditional ceremonial practices. This is why for the Blood Tribe, restoring buffalo is about more than restoring the land.