The bison are back—and they’re helping to restore Métis Nation culture

brown yak on brown grass field during day


Buffalo helped build the Métis Nation until European settlers hunted them to their near-extinction. Today, their reintroduction symbolizes Métis resilience in a country still addressing the wrongs inflicted on its Indigenous people. Karen Gardiner heads to the Canadian province of Alberta to witness a historic moment and see reconciliation in action.

On a crisp September 2021 morning in Alberta, I’m part of a small crowd gathered in a paddock on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. As we wait quietly behind the length of a wire fence, everyone seems to be holding their breath; eyes fixed in the direction of a livestock trailer parked at the paddock’s edge.

Finally, after a few tense minutes, a rancher, looking the part in a white stetson, gently opens the trailer door and the clattering of hooves rips through the silence.

I watch as, one by one, 16 huge, square-humped wood bison, also known as buffalo, come thundering out, running at full-tilt for a few hundred meters before pulling up and huddling together—as if to discuss where on earth they’ve just found themselves.

If they recognize the place, it must have been a genetic memory. Until this morning, bison hadn’t set hoof on those hills for around 150 years.

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We’ve Already Come Too Far To End This Now.

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