Reintroduced to Banff National Park this week, buffalo were vital to Indigenous people for thousands of years

Image of an old postcard featuring Buffalo in Banff National Park
Postacard from our Local Heritage and Family History Special Collection

Buffalo, important to Indigenous culture and lifestyle, once covered the Plains and were just recently reintroduced to Banff National Park.

Indigenous people depended on buffalo for food, clothing, shelter, and tools such as leather cording, containers and even shields. One adult male buffalo could provide as much as 1,000 pounds of meat.

Buffalo hunts were all-consuming enterprises. Cliff drives, circular brush enclosures called “pounds” or approaching on foot and surrounding part of the herd were common hunting techniques. The “surround” technique demanded nerves of steel and lots of experience.

When Europeans arrived on the scene, they brought with them horses, and guns. 30 million buffalo were brought to near extinction in little more than a century, and the Indigenous people who relied on them were profoundly impacted.

On February 6, 16 wild buffalo were reintroduced to Banff National Park, restoring an integral part of the ecosystem, and providing a cultural and spiritual connection for Indigenous people.

Want to learn more?

Read: An Illustrated History of Canada’s Native People by Arthur J. Ray, Maskepetoon: Leader, Warrior, Peacemaker by Hugh A. Dempsey and Imagining Head Smashed In: Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains by Jack W. Brink

Graphic of #tbt150

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