Iniskim, Return of the Buffalo

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Iniskim, Return of the Buffalo

A unique experience is coming to Chuwapchipchiyan Kudi Bi (Canmore): It’s called ‘Iniskim, Return of the Buffalo.’

When and where

Date and time


Quarry Lake Park Spray Lakes Road Canmore, AB T1W Canada

Map and directions

How to get there

About this event

Join us on August 11 to experience a spectacular performance of ‘Iniskim, Return of the Buffalo’, an outdoor storytelling performance that uses lantern sculpture, puppetry, spoken word, and traditional Blackfoot and Stoney songs, dance and drumming, to share the story of the Buffalo — a uniquely important animal ecologically, culturally and historically.

See the story of sleeping buffalo, of stone buffalo. It is a story of human folly and of Na'pi ('Old Man') — known as the trickster in Blackfoot people's culture — who has hidden the buffalo in the mountains. It is both a gathering and a teaching that shines light and truth upon the land.

This special performance by the Canadian Academy of Mask and Puppetry, with creative direction from members of the Blood Tribe (Kainai) and Stoney Nakoda First Nations, and guidance from Elders, celebrates the Buffalo and the species' reintroduction into the natural ecosystem of Banff National Park.


This event is free and open to all; however, space is limited and registration is required to attend.

We strongly recommend walking, biking or car pooling to Quarry Lake Park if this is possible for you, in order to reduce congestion at the Quarry Lake Park parking lot.

After arriving at Quarry Lake Park and checking in with your ticket, you will be taken on the short walk to the outdoor site where the performance will take place.

Please ensure you bring the following: Proper footwear, clothing, blankets, flashlights or headlamps, insect repellant, cushions or blankets to sit on, water and any snacks you’d like.

Note also that washrooms are available on-site near the Quarry Lake Park parking lot.

A brief history of buffalo & more about ‘Iniskim’

As part of its mandate to restore species and ecological processes in national parks, Parks Canada began a reintroduction of plains bison to Banff in 2017. Iniskim was created to mark this occasion with an immersive, community-engaged, lantern-puppet performance in the style of a traveling medieval cycle play, one that has illuminated the rivers and forests of the Canadian Rockies.

The plains bison is a uniquely important animal in the history, culture and ecology of North America. Bison were a plentiful species (historians estimate that there were once 300 million bison roaming from Alaska to Mexico) along the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies until the late 1800s when they were almost completely eradicated from the land. Many factors contributed to this, including a desire on the part of governments to weaken Indigenous populations resisting European expansion westward.

The buffalo were the single most important food source for Indigenous Peoples, and provided all manner of raw material used for everything from shelter to clothing, tools to children’s toys. The demise of the buffalo is a story for all of North Americans to contend with. It is a reminder of the interconnectedness of our societies and of humans to the greater environment. It is a story which can teach us about the severe costs that come with imperialism and unchecked conquest.

Iniskim aims to create a venue for discussion in the spirit of truth and reconciliation about the North American story, and engage in dialogue about a shared path forward for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The story of the buffalo can be a starting point for cultural understanding, and their return points toward healing, rejuvenation, and a better way forward. Their return is also important ecologically and shines light upon many efforts underway to heal the land by nature of the presence of the buffalo.

The creators of Iniskim hope the performance will offer space for discussions about where communities are, and where communities might go. They believe it can help create a space for healing and a space for light. Being in the midst of a climate emergency and of the planet’s sixth mass extinction, we stand at a crossroads. Thankfully, the buffalo is a great teacher and has returned. The reintroduction this keystone species is an essential step for the ecological and spiritual health of the plains, foothills, and Eastern Slopes of the Rockies.

Banner photo credit: Dan Rafla

Inset photo credit: Mike Tan

Iniskim, Return of the Buffalo image