Willow Lake Métis Nation (WLMN) celebrated a large milestone on Friday, June 3 after acquiring 205 acres of land in Anzac to help provide their citizens with food, power and cultural security.
Sohkastwâwin (So-cast-a-wow-win) is expected to feature an eco-bison ranch and local food source, a garden, a community cultural centre, and métis housing.
Justin Bourque, CEO of WLMN says that it all began with adaptive work in the community that began years ago when they developed a local early action plan focused on local food security.
“It didn’t take long for us to connect with the opportunity of having a bison ranch, which is one of the key elements of our community for this land,” Bourque explained. “It grew into what we now call Sohkastwâwin, it’s a Cree term that stands for the act of being resilient.”
Bourque said they’re aware of the strong connection the bison have through research and by listening to the land.
“We know the connection the bison share with the land. The bison is one of the best animals to support reclamation efforts.”
Bourque described the Willow Lake area as being “reset land” and that reintroducing the bison into the land is what’s needed to bring things back.
“Historically there were over three million bison that used to roam this land and it’s the reason that North America is shaped the way it is,” said Bourque. “There were many other animals and eco systems that were impacted. The environment that we live in today, is one that had to reset itself from the absence of bison roaming the land.”
“This land was one key critical piece of our self-governance as a community and opportunity for our future.”
Purchasing of the land was made possible through the Astisiy Community Partnership with Suncor which acquired all of TC Energy’s equity interest in the Northern Courier Pipeline resulting in 15 per cent ownership of the pipeline.
This was the first publicly announced investment through the Astisiy Community Partnership.