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‘It’s historic’: University of Lethbridge becomes first post-secondary institution to sign Buffalo Treaty

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The University of Lethbridge and City of Lethbridge have put pen to paper, signing the Buffalo Treaty on Wednesday morning.

Covering more than six million acres in Canada and the U.S., the treaty preserves the buffalo ways through conservation, culture and education.

“Our university Blackfoot name is 'Sacred Buffalo Stone' so having the connection to the buffalo as a university when we were given our name 20 years ago and having that relationship with the treaty signing is really significant,” said Mike Mahon, president and vice-chancellor of the U of L.

Close to 50 First Nations and hundreds of organizations have already signed on, the U of L being the first post-secondary institution to join.

“The buffalo plays a role in bringing all these other animals, all these other plants and so on and it is really an eco-engineer,” said Dr. Leroy Little Bear, vice-provost of Indigenous Relations at the U of L. “The signing of the treaty by the University of Lethbridge, by the City of Lethbridge, is a very historic thing. It sets a precedent for other cities, schools, and so on to do the same,”

THE BUFFALO TREATY

The treaty was first signed on Sept. 24 2014, at the Blackfeet reservation in Montana.

Indigenous people from Canada and the U.S. came together to sign the treaty, with a goal of allowing the free flow of the animals across the international border and restoring the cultural connections between bison and Indigenous peoples.

“Even though, the communities and the original signatories of the treaty were from both sides of the border, the actual drafting happened here with them coming together at this institution of higher learning is historic, it's a momentous occasion,” Little Bear said. “Everybody within the university; staff, both academic and non-academic, faculties, departments, all come together to service those students in the same way the buffalo brings all these other animals and plants together,”

Along with the U of L, the City of Lethbridge have also committed to supporting and signing the treaty.

“There is a huge commitment within the council city plan to work on bringing positive relations with all Indigenous peoples here in the city of Lethbridge,” said Charlene Bruised Head-Mountain Horse, an Indigenous relations advisor with the city. “So, the symbolic nature of this is solidifying that there is a connection and continuation for that work to be done and it is a priority for our city council.”

The signing falls on the same week the university is celebrating Indigenous Awareness Week.

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