Connecting with the land

Jared Peekeekoot holds a deer head picked clean by wolves and scavengers. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

Clint Starblanket is a direct descendant of Chief Ahtahkakoop, who once led his band of bison hunters on the northern plains.

In the early days of his leadership, during the late 19th Century, the bison were still abundant. Thousands upon thousands wallowed and foraged on the rich Prairie grasslands.

This Thursday and Friday, more than a hundred years later, Clint visited the home of the last free-roaming plains bison herd in Canada. Along with other students from Wahpeton and Ahtahkakoop First Nations, he attended the West Side Youth Tour in Prince Albert National Park. The event aims to teach indigenous youth how Parks Canada staff track and conserve the bison.

The Ahtahkakoop students spent two days visiting kill sites, where they saw deer and bison carcasses taken down by wolves. They learned how to use telemetry to track predators, and how to identify a bison’s health from the marrow in its bones.

They also listened to their Elder, Tim Peekeekoot.

Peekeekoot has spent years hunting around the park. He was invited to share his wisdom during the trek through the park. Marina Best, a Parks Canada program officer, said she wanted to make learning a two-way street.

“The indigenous traditional knowledge is very important to teach to the youth, she said. “So they can understand the connection between the bison and the land.”

Peekeekoot spoke about the cultural significance of the animals.

“The buffalo preserved our lives a long time ago,” he said. “And we are here so that our youth understand.”

For more on this story, see the weekend edition of the Daily Herald for March 25-27.

More photos from the trip:

Elder Tim Peekeekoot shared his pipe with Parks Canada staff, including Joanne Watson, pictured here. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald
Owain Berry shows Jared Peekeekoot and Lane Genereux how to saw through bone and examine marrow to tell an animal’s health. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald
Elder Tim Peekeekoot. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald