U of L to sign Buffalo Treaty

The University of Lethbridge will be making history today as it signs a Buffalo Treaty, declaring its agreement and cooperation to the renewal and restoration of prairie ecosystems and the culture on those lands. At 11:30 a.m. in the Science Commons Atrium, the University will become the first post-secondary institution to sign the treaty as a supporter, as part of its Indigenous Awareness Week.

The Treaty was first signed on Sept. 24, 2014, at the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana. Indigenous people from Canada and the U.S. came together to sign the treaty, with a goal of allowing the free flow of the animals across the international border and restoring the cultural connections between bison and Indigenous peoples. Since than, supporters and other partners have also signed the agreement, reaffirming the commitment to the treaty with support from those outside the Indigenous community.

“I am looking forward to the Buffalo Treaty signing,” said Leroy Little Bear, Vice-Provost Iniskim Indigenous Relations at the University.

“Buffalo were a keystone species for the environment and it was also a keystone species with regard to culture, our songs, stories, ceremonies. They are very closely related to that animal. The tribes in the surrounding area decided to sign a treaty amongst themselves for cultural restoration for ecological purposes. Because of that, all these tribes that are signatories, work together to try restoring the land.”

Little Bear connects the buffalo to a symbol for Indigenous peoples, one that resonates within the spirit of a person belief. “Our songs and our songs are related to it, but when you look out the window there are no buffalo to be seen. The example I give is, if you are brought up in a Christian tradition and you look outside and don’t see that little corner church, or you don’t see crosses all over the place, there is something missing,” said Little Bear.

“Well so it goes with the buffalo. That is the reason why elders wanted to sign the treaty, so that the youth who hear the stories, sing the songs, and participate in the ceremonies can make the connection.”

The treaty can be signed by sovereign entities, but also supporters to help spread the message further.

“The Elders said we have do have our sovereigns that can sign the treaty, which the tribes have, but we have a bunch of people out there, organizations, that are wanting to restore and bring the buffalo back. We should allow organizations and individuals to also sign, not as sovereign entities, but as supporters So, there are two levels of signatures,” said Little Bear.

Leading the cause, the U of L will be followed by other organizations following its example.

“The university coming forth to sign the treaty . . . will be very historic. It will be the first post secondary institution to sign on to the treaty, as a supporter for all the things contained in that treaty,” said Little Bear.

City council on Tuesday approved a recommendation by its Cultural and Social Standing Policy Committee that mayor Blaine Hyggen also become a signatory to the treaty today at the university

Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald