Stoney Nakoda combines western science with cultural teachings in bison monitoring 

Members of the Stoney Nakoda Nations west of Calgary, Alta. say they want to see more cultural monitoring of wildlife within national parks.

Nation members have been monitoring a herd of Bison in Banff National Park since being re-introduced into the Canadian Rockies in 2017.

What started as a herd of 16 has now grown to over 60 that are thriving and adapting to life on the eastern slopes for the first time in over a century.

“When we see them out there on the landscape and we know that they like being there, spiritually and culturally it’s very important for us as Stoney people to see and know that,” ” said Bill Snow with the Stoney Nakoda Administration.

bison monitoring
Bison and calves in Banff National Park. Photo courtesy: Karsten Heuer, Parks Canada.

Snow said nation members have been conducting cultural monitoring and have recently published a report which reveals how the bison contribute the mountain ecosystem with recommendations to Parks Canada; including its inclusion.

The study started in September 2020 with ceremonies and elder interviews to learn about the bison.

Soon after, Stoney Nakoda riders ventured on a week-long trip by horseback with the help of Parks Canada.

“We’re not just going out there, talking to biologists, doing the same old western type of studies,” Snow said. “We’re relying on our oral history, our teachings from our elders. That’s the new element here when looking at wildlife.

“Why do they behave the way that they are, why are they gathering and travelling at certain places? We got to understand some of that.”

Stoney Nakoda riders follow bison paths. Photo courtesy: Stoney Nakoda Nation.

The report states the bison have “helped restore an intense ancestral Stoney connection to these lands, which also contributes to the landscape being whole once again.”

“The bison support other wildlife,” Snow explained. “Their droppings help to replenish and help the soil. Their bison hair, birds and the little critters will take that wool back to their nests and line their nests.

“They also propagate vegetation because all the seedlings that get attached to them when they move around.”

Snow said the community is expected to make another trip to the bison reintroduction zone in the summer.

Read more:

Bison makes a comeback in Banff National Park thanks to Treaty 7 nations, Métis of Alberta 

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