Willow Lake Métis Nation Purchases Historic Land

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Metis Child and Family Services dance group with music by the Rockin Fiddles. (Photo taken by Nicholas Vardy)

The Willow Lake Métis Nation (WLMN) celebrated a milestone Friday, June 3 after acquiring 205 acres of land in Anzac to help provide its citizens with food, power and cultural safety.

Sohkastwâwin (So-cast-a-wow-win) is expected to feature an eco-friendly bison ranch and local food source, garden, community cultural center and Métis housing.

Justin Bourque, CEO of WLMN, says it all started with adaptive work in the community that began years ago when they developed a local early action plan focused on local food security.

Justin Bourque, CEO, Willow Lake Métis Nation, speaking at Friday’s ceremony.

“It didn’t take long for us to seize the opportunity to have a bison ranch, which is one of the key parts of our community for this land,” explained Bourque. “It became what we now call Sohkastwâwin, it’s a Cree term for the act of being resilient.

Bourque said he is aware of the close bond bison have through searching and listening to the land.

“We know the bond bison have with the land. Bison are one of the best animals to support reclamation efforts.

Bourque described the Willow Lake area as “land reset” and that reintroducing bison to the land is what it takes to bring things back.

“Historically, there were over three million bison that roamed this land and that’s why North America is shaped the way it is,” Bourque said. “Many other animals and ecosystems have been affected. The environment we live in today is one that had to reset itself from the absence of roaming bison on the land.

“This land was an essential part of our autonomy as a community and an opportunity for our future.”

The purchase of the land was made possible through Astisiy’s community partnership with Suncor, which acquired TC Energy’s entire interest in the Northern Courier Pipeline, resulting in 15% ownership of the pipeline.

This was the first publicly announced investment under the Astisiy Community Partnership.

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