Buffalo helped build the Métis Nation until European settlers hunted them to their near-extinction. Today, their reintroduction symbolizes Métis resilience in a country still addressing the wrongs inflicted on its Indigenous people. Karen Gardiner heads to the Canadian province of Alberta to witness a historic moment and see reconciliation in action.

On a crisp September 2021 morning in Alberta, I’m part of a small crowd gathered in a paddock on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. As we wait quietly behind the length of a wire fence, everyone seems to be holding their breath; eyes fixed in the direction of a livestock trailer parked at the paddock’s edge.

Finally, after a few tense minutes, a rancher, looking the part in a white stetson, gently opens the trailer door and the clattering of hooves rips through the silence.

I watch as, one by one, 16 huge, square-humped wood bison, also known as buffalo, come thundering out, running at full-tilt for a few hundred meters before pulling up and huddling together—as if to discuss where on earth they’ve just found themselves.

If they recognize the place, it must have been a genetic memory. Until this morning, bison hadn’t set hoof on those hills for around 150 years.