The Government of Canada and Wanuskewin Collaborate to Bring Back the Bison
From: Parks Canada
Plains Bison from Grasslands National Park make their debut at Wanuskewin
January 17, 2020 Wanuskewin, SK Parks Canada Agency
Parks Canada places represent the very best that Canada has to offer and tell the stories of who we are, including the histories, cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples. As a recognized leader in conservation, Parks Canada has made lasting contributions to wildlife conservation for over a century including the recovery of species such as the Plains bison.
Today, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced that six Plains bison were successfully transferred from Grasslands National Park to Wanuskewin. Their arrival marks an historic moment in the history of Wanuskewin, a World Heritage Site hopeful, thanks to collaboration between Wanuskewin and Parks Canada. A celebration was held today at Wanuskewin with members of Parks Canada, Wansukewin and other partners to officially mark the Bison transfer.
Plains bison are an iconic keystone species of the Great Plains region and hold great cultural, economic and spiritual significance for the Indigenous peoples of the Prairies. The relationship between bison, people and the landscape is central to the 6,000 year-old story of Wanuskewin, and the return of bison to this landscape is a milestone for all of the partners involved. Wanuskewin’s initiative to “Bring Back the Bison” would not have been possible without the vision of the Thundering Ahead campaign and the generosity of the Brownlee Family Foundation.
Grasslands National Park is home to a managed herd of genetically-pure Plains bison. Parks Canada is committed to providing disease-free, cattle gene-free, genetically diverse animals to partners interested in developing conservation and display herds. With this transfer of animals from Grasslands National Park, Parks Canada and Wanuskewin are partners in working towards the survival and well-being of these iconic and majestic animals. The bison from Grasslands National Park will join a herd originating from the United States who possess genetics from the Yellowstone herd.
Working together with more than 300 Indigenous groups across Canada, Parks Canada and Indigenous peoples are partners in conserving Canada’s natural and cultural heritage and sharing the stories of treasured places, including Grasslands National Park and Wanuskewin.
“The Government of Canada is honoured to support the cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples of the Northern Great Plains. By transferring Plains bison from Grasslands National Park to Wanuskewin in Saskatoon, Parks Canada is continuing its work as a leader in conservation and contributing to the global survival and well-being of an iconic and majestic animal.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson,
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
“The bison that have arrived from Grasslands National Park will establish Wanuskewin’s conservation herd. Their arrival is the culmination of a vision articulated in the Thundering Ahead campaign, but one that we have been waiting for since bison first left this landscape. We are delighted to welcome them home and are grateful to the Brownlee family for helping make this dream a reality.”
Chief Executive Officer, Wanuskewin
“Bringing back the bison has been a hope for Wanuskewin since we launched the Thundering Ahead campaign three years ago, but it has been the hope for Indigenous peoples for more than a hundred years. Seeing these animals returned to Wanuskewin is a symbol and reminder of our own strength and resilience. They represent reconciliation with the land and with each other.”
Chair, Board of Directors, Wanuskewin
- Grasslands National Park was established in 1981 with the Federal-Provincial agreement to conserve, protect and present a portion of the Prairie Grasslands. Only a small portion of this ecosystem remains, making Grasslands National Park and surrounding lands the most significant representation of the Prairie Grasslands Natural Region.
- In the dry hills, badlands and eroded river valleys in and around Grasslands National Park, a diversity of wildlife, including pronghorns, greater sage-grouse, prairie rattlesnakes and the only remaining black-tailed prairie dog colonies in Canada, can still be found.
- Plains bison were re-introduced in Grasslands National Park in December 2005, after 120 years of absence, to restore a ‘grazing regime’ of large herbivores in a portion of the West Block of the park.
- Wanuskewin is a significant archaeological site, a national historic site, and an interpretive and cultural centre operated by the not-for-profit Wanuskewin Heritage Park Authority. It works to advance the understanding and appreciation of the evolving cultures of the Northern Plains Indigenous peoples.
- Thundering Ahead was publicly launched in 2017 to raise funds for Wanuskewin’s capital expansion, grassland restoration, UNESCO World Heritage designation and return of the bison. This national capital fundraising campaign has brought together donors and supporters from across North America to see this extraordinary renewal to fruition.
- The Brownlee Family Foundation has donated $5 million to Wanuskewin’s Thundering Ahead campaign to initiate the return of the bison to this national historic site. Since 2013, Wayne Brownlee has been involved with Wanuskewin as co-chair of the campaign, as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors, and as a donor. His urge to “think bigger” prompted Wanuskewin’s visionary plans for expansion. Wanuskewin is grateful to Wayne and his family – Ina Lou, Ryan, and Cara. The Bison Facilities at Wanuskewin will be named for the Brownlee Family.
- Plains bison from Grasslands National Park have been transferred to two organizations: The University of Saskatchewan and Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Parks Canada has also supplied Wood and Plains bison herds to national and international partners including Russia and the United States.
For Parks Canada:
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Parks Canada Agency
Sales and Marketing Manager