Protecting Our Land

Indigenous Guardians Program

Based on successful Indigenous Ranger Programs in Australia, the Canadian Indigenous Guardians Program was established in the 2017 federal budget: $25 million over four years was allocated for successful applications from Indigenous and Metis groups who sought greater opportunity to exercise stewardship responsibilities over their traditional lands, waters, and ice.

CPAWS Saskatchewan hopes that this Guardian Program will inform a long-term approach for a potential National Indigenous Guardians Network.

“The Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program supports Indigenous rights and responsibilities in protecting and conserving ecosystems, developing and maintaining sustainable economies, and continuing the profound connections between the Canadian landscape and Indigenous cultures.”

- Environment and Climate Change Canada

Program on the Ground

The guardians of the Sturgeon River Plains Bison are selected directly from Mistawasis Nêhiyawak First Nation, and represent some of the best and brightest young people from the community.

As a people that historically lived and survived with the buffalo, the Nation is deeply committed to regaining their traditional connections to the buffalo— both culturally and spiritually.

Mistawasis Nêhiyawak’s long-term vision is to use what they learn through this initiative to bring a new herd to Mistawasis lands in the future. This would allow for the enhancement of the ecological integrity of their lands and enhanced food security, all brought by the benefits of the ecological services of the buffalo.

“Reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, from an Aboriginal perspective, also requires reconciliation with the natural world. If human beings resolve problems between themselves but continue to destroy the natural world, then reconciliation remains incomplete. This is a perspective that we as Commissioners have repeatedly heard: that reconciliation will never occur unless we are also reconciled with the earth”

- Page 18, Honoring the Truth, Reconciling the Future Report, July 2015.

The Indigenous Guardians program that Mistawasis Nêhiyawak and CPAWS Saskatchewan have undertaken together is interwoven with a desire to build strong partnerships both with each other, and with the landscapes that we share.

Beyond this, the program provides an avenue for the youth of Mistawasis Nêhiyawak to connect to the land, their people, and their Elders while also training them for careers in the natural resource management sector.

Youth employed by the Guardians Program will be trained in monitoring techniques, data collection, management planning in collaboration with harvesters and other Indigenous groups, and in advocating for the herd all across the province.

Through complete monitoring of the Sturgeon River Plains Bison herd and collaboration with various stakeholders, the Guardians will identify the critical habitat of the bison (both outside of Prince Albert National Park and within) and bring together the necessary parties that need to be involved in the next steps of protection for the herd.


Take Action

Keep Stewards on the Land

The Indigenous Guardians program that Mistawasis Nêhiyawak and CPAWS Saskatchewan have undertaken together is interwoven with a desire to build strong partnerships both with each other, and with the landscapes that we share.

Make A Donation

A North American Commitment to Saving the Bison

In the spring of 2018, Mistawasis Nêhiyawak became a member of the Buffalo Treaty. This Treaty is a Nation-to-Nation Treaty that follows the spirit and intent of ancient interactions between Indigenous groups as they shared the Great Plains and lived nomadic lives that followed the buffalo across the continent.

This Treaty returns buffalo consciousness to 21st Century thought and action, and explores ways to protect present herds and to reintroduce buffalo to traditional Indigenous lands.

You can view the treaty itself here.

“We should not see for a second time the disappearance of our brother the Buffalo.”

- Anthony Blair Dreaver Johnston, Mistawasis Nêhiyawak

This summer, Mistawasis Nêhiyawak hosted several Buffalo Treaty events to spread awareness about the treaty itself and of its commitment to protect the bison of North America and to revitalize the cultural and spiritual ways of life that once revolved around the bison.

A Bright Future

It is our sincere hope here at CPAWS Saskatchewan that through efforts and partnerships like the ones that we are forming with Mistawasis Nêhiyawak, Parks Canada, the Government of Saskatchewan, and with other organizations and concerned parties, we can make a difference in the trajectory of the Sturgeon River Plains Bison Herd.

It is only by working together that we can enact change; by standing strong these last wild places and creatures in Saskatchewan will stay just that– Wild.