Enhancing the reintroduction of Plains Bison through the inclusion of cultural monitoring and traditional knowledge in Banff National Park

Enhancing the reintroduction of Plains Bison
through the inclusion of cultural monitoring and traditional knowledge in Banff National Park

Principal Investigator: William Snow (Stoney Nakoda Tribal Administration)

Opportunity: Plains bison (Bison bison bison), are a species of significant conservation interest in Canada, and the United States and is a species of great cultural and spiritual interest to the Stoney Nakoda Nation. The proposed project will provide an understanding of Bison habitat, behaviour and practices, from a traditional knowledge perspective. This understanding may provide support or deterrence for policy makers in Bison management issues, in Banff National Park (BNP).

Objectives: 1) Identify resources of traditional and cultural value within the reintroduction zone; 2) Document traditional knowledge (TK) and oral histories through video and audio media for historical, conservation and educational purposes; 3) Learn about related research on mountain wildlife in the project area, and other Plains Bison research; 4) Observe Plains Bison populations and habitat through cultural monitoring; 5) Provide opportunities for cultural exchange between Stoney Nakoda and Parks Canada. b. Long-term: 6) Use TK to provide insight into the wildlife and land management practices and policies; 7) Film a short documentary of the project for educational use; 8) Conduct outreach on the study for education partners, First Nation students, and environment groups; 9) Report findings to Parks Canada and policy makers for co-management development.

Research Plan: To capture Traditional Knowledge for this project, the Cultural Monitoring methodology will be utilized. Cultural Monitoring is a practice that incorporates local knowledge in the identification of resources and the monitoring of ecosystem change. It includes practices that are not commonly incorporated into conventional or western resource management but are still part of traditional society. Cultural Monitoring gathers information in a manner that considers both qualitative and quantitative environmental factors but also considers local knowledge and perspectives; these methods can help interpret and respond to changes in a complex system in a way that is different, but complementary, to the western science-based approach used by Parks Canada. Cultural monitoring provides the means of developing a variety of tools and knowledge to increase community capacity for environmental problem-solving while providing a broader set of data upon which land management decisions can be made.

Key Outcomes & Impact: The proposed project will offer report recommendations that will offer and alternate understanding for Bison herd management. Traditional knowledge will add to a base of knowledge of Bison in mountain landscapes, and the practices that accompany that knowledge. A larger, more diverse foundation of knowledge will provide decision makers with an alternate way to understand landscapes, and this alternate understanding may assist in a more inclusive decision making process.

February 2020 Presentation: Enhancing the Reintroduction of Plains Bison

Other Team Members:
Gilbert Francis (Bearspaw First Nation), Lenny Wesley (Bearspaw First Nation), Henry Holloway, Charles Powderface (Chiniki First Nation), Charlie Rabbit (Wesley First Nation), Hank Snow (Wesley First Nation)