Great Canadian Parks / Saskatchewan

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The Parks / Saskatchewan / Grasslands National Park


 


 


 


As long as 18 000 years ago, this was a prime buffalo hunting area for the migrant tribes, ancestors of the Assiniboine, the Cree and the Blackfoot. They followed the grassland herds, relying on the buffalo meat for food, its bones for tools, its skin for clothing and teepees and even the hooves for glue. Over 3000 reported sites in the park include almost 13 000 teepee rings, examples of weapons, tools, pottery, medicine wheels and various rock configurations found in the buttes. Tribes were often mutually hostile, their languages so different - despite their shared nomadic habits - that sign language was often needed to trade. By the 1600's the Gros Ventre had arrived and in 1876, Chief Sitting Bull and his Sioux people found temporary refuge here after the battle of Little Bighorn. In 1870, the newly formed Canadian government began to lure thousands of settlers to the area with the promise of free land purchased from the Hudson's Bay Company. The appropriation of land from the 170 000 existing Native Canadian and Metis inhabitants for distribution to the current wave of immigrants was enforced by the newly-created North West Mounted Police. The Metis' response to the disruption of their way of life and the loss of their homes was the rebellions led by Louis Riel. Even more durable than the long-standing recriminations and destruction of native tradition were the effects of settlement on the ecology. The wholesale slaughter of wildlife and the wide- scale plowing under of the grassland to satisfy the Dominion Lands Act which stipulated 10 acres be cultivated annually, in time, destroyed habitats, disrupted interdependent ecosystems, and led to the extinction of entire species.

 

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