By Ryan Clarke
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The University of Lethbridge made history Wednesday by being one of the first post-secondary institutions in Canada to sign on to the Buffalo Treaty as a supporter.
During Indigenous Awareness Week on campus, the university signed on to perpetuate all aspects of Indigenous cultures related to buffalo, including customs, practices, beliefs, and ceremonies.
The City of Lethbridge was also present at the ceremony, adding to the signatures as supporters, too.
“Today is a fantastic historic day for the signing of the treaty. The University of Lethbridge has played a very important role, in fact, the drafting of the Buffalo Treaty happened right here at the University of Lethbridge,” said Leroy Little Bear, Vice-Provost for Indigenous Relations at the University.
“The university is named in Blackfoot after buffalo, Iniskim, which means scared buffalo stone. . . The university has always had that relationship with the buffalo. The buffalo is very important because it acts as a corridor for people to come together. The ecologically, the buffalo plays a role in bringing all these other animals, plants, and so on. It is an eco-engineer.”
On Sept. 24, 2014, the first Buffalo Treaty was signed on the Blackfeet Reservation near Browning, Montana. It was signed by eight First Nations, four from the U.S., and four from Canada.
Since 2014, around 50 other First Nations have signed the treaty, working in agreement to work toward the educational and environmental objectives of the treaty.
“It speaks about conservation, it speaks to culture, it speaks to education, economics, and research, which are all areas that an institution of higher education does,” said Little Bear.
Members from the City of Lethbridge were present at the ceremony, with mayor Blaine Hyggen, and city councillors signing the treaty as supporters.
“Dr. Leroy Little Bear came and invited the City of Lethbridge through a meeting with mayor Hyggen in regards to the ecological importance of what this treaty symbolizes,” said Charlene Bruised Head-Mountain Horse.
“There is a huge commitment within the city council plan to work on building positive relations with all Indigenous peoples here in the City of Lethbridge. The symbolic nature of this is solidifying that there is a connection and continuation for that work to be done.”
Looking to preserve culture, ecosystems, and the future, the Buffalo Treaty creates a connection towards working together.
“We are the first university in Canada to sign on to the treaty, and I think the treaty is symbolic to the importance of the buffalo and Indigenous communities,” said Mike Mahon, president and vice-chancellor of the university.
“It’s really symbolic to the relationship between our university and the nations.”
Ryan Clarke is Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the LETHBRIDGE HERALD. The LJI is federally funded.