By Ross Martin
Buffalo Educator and Graduate Student, Yale School of the Environment
The Tanka fund team traveled to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in July for the International Bison Convention. Our route from South Dakota to Saskatoon took us through sprawling prairie, rolling hills, and crystal-clear skies—perfect buffalo habitat. The breathtaking northern Great Plains is full of potential, brimming with opportunities to return buffalo to the landscape. Supporting this return is the work of Tanka Fund, but luckily, we’re not alone in this important work.
At the International Bison Convention (IBC), we joined hundreds of fellow buffalo advocates. Biologists, ranchers, indigenous leaders, veterinarians, authors, professors, artists, politicians, photographers, wildlife managers and students filled the convention hall. It was a diverse group bound together by the common goal of expanding buffalo herds anywhere and everywhere we can. Attendees exchanged of stories, knowledge, business cards, and visions for a buffalo future. There was a buzz of excitement reminiscent of the potential we saw in the prairie as we traveled north.
A highlight of the week was a visit to Wanuskewin Heritage Park near Saskatoon. The site was a confluence of Great Plains tribes as soon as the glaciers cleared 6,000 years ago. The land once teemed with buffalo, creating rich cultural lifeways that are celebrated at Wanuskwewin today. We had the privilege to hear history of the land from archaeologists and learn about Wanuskewin’s newly introduced cultural buffalo herd blazing a trail into the future.
Attendees of the IBC had much in common, but it was apparent that the approach of Tanka Fund is unique and necessary for equitable and successful buffalo restoration. There is some institutional and governmental support for public wildlife and tribally stewarded herds (although more support is needed). Tanka Fund’s focus is different from all others at the convention—we support Indigenous individuals and communities who are taking buffalo restoration into their own hands. The work they’re doing is truly grassroots. It’s guided by a rich knowledge of land and culture. Tanka Fund is the only group fully committed to supporting these inspiring people healing themselves and the land. This unique approach allows us to leverage your generous support for maximum impact and benefit to native land, lives and economies.
We concluded the week back at Wanuskewin for a signing of the Buffalo Treaty (2014). The Buffalo Treaty is an international agreement led by First Nations people that recognizes buffalo as wild free ranging stewards of the land, honors the relationship between First Nations people and the buffalo, and welcomes buffalo to live amongst us and sustain the people. Tanka Fund had the privilege and honor to add our signature to the treaty. The IBC theme of “Strength in the Herd” seemed fitting as the ink dried.