Native Prairie History

The Saskatchewan prairies had their beginnings, 16,000 years ago as the glacial ice melted. Archaeological evidence suggests that humans inhabited southern Saskatchewan soon after the last glacier began to retreat about 11,500 years ago.

The soil types and landforms left in the wake of the glaciers, along with a harsh climate and disturbances resulting from periodic fires and gazing animals, created a unique environment. Over thousands of years, the prairie landscape evolved to include a wide variety of plant and animal species particularly suited to and dependent upon these environmental conditions. The open grassland interspersed with lakes, ponds, creeks, river valleys, shrubs and trees supported aboriginal people, huge herds of grazing animals and a myriad of birds, insects and other wildlife. These age-old plant communities of the prairie and parkland regions of Saskatchewan are what we refer to as native prairie.

In the last 150 years, most of the native prairie in North America has disappeared. What little prairie left exists under quite different conditions than it has for thousands of years.

Adapted with permission from Native Prairie Stewardship Fact Sheet, published by the Saskatchewan Wetland Conservation Corporation, (Saskatchewan Watershed Authority ( ) and Acreage Living: A Conservation Guide for Owners and Developers of Natural Habitats published by The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan Inc., 2001 .