On January 21, 2000 The Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) designated the area of the Redberry Lake watershed as the Redberry Lake Biosphere Region. The RLBR is presently the only UNESCO designated biosphere region in the province.
This designation was largely significant for a few reasons:
- It was driven by the local community through the founding of The Redberry Pelican Project. This project garnered international attention for being recognized as an important site for the American White Pelican to nest and breed. Thereafter, it became a Migratory Bird Sanctuary, prompting further interest in becoming a designated site.
- The area is not attached to a national or provincial park (like many other biosphere regions), so it is unique for its landscape.
Located on the edge of the Aspen Parkland in Saskatchewan, Canada, the RLBR sits in the central northwest corner of the province. It includes the entire Redberry Lake watershed and its borders which touch several municipalities and small communities. It encompasses Treaty 6 Territory, the traditional territories of the Cree Peoples- Mistawasis Nêhiyawak, Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Lucky Man Cree Nation and the homelands of the Métis Nation– Western Region 2 and 2A. The town of Hafford is the gateway to the biosphere region.
Within its location lies a transitional ecosystem- the boreal forest to the north and grasslands to the south. A diverse range of species inhabit the area and rich, fertile, black soils are a part of the natural environment. The region used to be largely undisturbed and at one point in time, wild bison herds could be seen freely roaming the land. These wild herds, in conjunction with the landscape’s natural, fertile features have largely contributed to the abundance of diverse history in the RLBR today.
The Redberry Lake Biosphere Region embodies cultural and historical influence. This stems from both the Indigenous peoples who first inhabited the area along with the European’s who settled the land in the 18th century. The start of it all however, began with the naming of the lake- Mihkomin sâkahikan (Redberry Lake).
The saline lake got its name for the red berries that grow here: Silver and Canada Buffaloberry, Rosehips (Prairie, Prickly, Woods’) and Hawthorn. The berries, which also have medicinal properties, were used as a food source for Indigenous communities who travelled to the lake to use the area as a seasonal site for hunting bison. Though the sustenance that was provided is what initially brought people to return each year, the lake further became known for its spiritual and cultural significance.
Cree Narratives have long since regarded Redberry Lake as a spiritual place. Many origin stories describe the lake being a place where people went to fast and where horses were seen emerging from the water (Mcleod, Neal. Cree Narrative Memory: From Treaties to Contemporary Times). Over the years these powerful narratives, along with the lake’s abundant food sources, eventually led to the area becoming named as a meeting place for both species and cultures alike. Since then, many communities and their cultures have migrated to the region. Learn more by clicking below!