Learning Story – Learning About Bison

Learning Story – Learning About Bison

The Week of March 7, 2023

What Happened?

We welcomed back Elder Edna Paul, as well as knowledge holders Al Harman and Russell Mercredi, who brought some bison meat and a whole bison head courtesy of the North Slave Métis Alliance. Each of them shared stories with the group about their experiences harvesting bison, cooking all the parts of the bison (even the eyeballs!), and community hunts. We also shared stories about the historical and cultural significance of bison to Indigenous peoples of the prairie regions (such as the Blackfoot Nation), strategies used to harvest bison before rifles were available, and the importance of sites such as Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump (now a World Heritage Site in Alberta). The Bushkids had some wonderful insights about why it may be beneficial to hunt bison in groups (eg. for safety), and ways all the parts of a bison can be used and not wasted. Edna worked with some of the Bushkids to cook up a delicious bison soup with fresh bannock – what a treat!

Now that the Snow Castle is built and open, many Bushkids were inspired to make their own snow forts using plastic snow saws. We tested various places to find a thick layer of hard crusty snow to make blocks, and found it was best down on the lake where the wind has packed the snow in drifts. Some wanted to try to make an iglu with the blocks, and others made a type of inukshuk. We talked about how these words come from the Inuit and Inuvialuit people in the high Arctic and what these snow structures are used for.

Some Bushkids enjoyed making art with coloured fish scales, while others played chess – with some older Bushkids who have expertise in chess teaching the younger ones.

At the end of the day, we enjoyed making smores over the fire to celebrate our last session before March break.

Why is it Important?

In previous weeks we already discussed how many Dene consider themselves “caribou people” and what that means. This week we related that to other Indigenous peoples, particularly those based in the prairie regions, who consider themselves “bison people”. We reflected on how many useful items bison can provide for humans, including lots of meat, clothing, and tools, and how a bison hunt would necessarily have involved the entire community, especially before rifles were available. The Bushkids were so engaged during our conversation with the knowledge holders; it was such a powerful way for them to understand how harvesting connects people to their community, in this case the Métis community. 

What Does This Mean For Next Time?

We will continue to invite local harvesters and knowledge holders to share their harvesting experiences with the Bushkids. We want to not only deepen our understanding and respect for the animals we are fortunate to eat together at Bushkids, but also deepen our understanding and respect for the harvesters themselves and the communities they are embedded in and provide for. 

We will take two weeks off for March break, wishing everyone and their families a wonderful break and hopefully opportunities to enjoy the Land and the sunshine at this beautiful time of year!