Dream became reality as Peepeekisis Cree Nation turns over herd of 22 buffalo to Zagime Anishinabek
- Julia Peterson | January 27, 2020
There were cheers and celebrations at Zagime Anishinabek First Nation earlier this week as 23 buffalo leaped off a truck and ran single-file into their new enclosure. The buffalo are a gift from Peepeekisis Cree Nation, drawn from the hundred-strong herd Peepeekisis has raised since they received a gift of 22 buffalo from Alberta rancher Ron Steckly in 2014.
“I really feel that some of the prayers and some of the help that we asked from the spirits and our ancestors in our journey to self-determination came true,” said Zagime Anishinabek (formerly Sakimay) First Nation Chief Lynn Acoose. “I think our ancestors and our spirit helpers were there. They were part of the process to help us see this dream become a reality.”
Acoose says the new herd will also help ensure food security and sovereignty on the reserve.
Many children were present to watch the buffalo arrive, and Peepeekisis headman Alan Bird says their reaction was a joyful sight.
“That day, with all those kids there, I was standing at the front … and I yelled: ’Are you children happy? The buffalo are home on your land.’ And they were all yelling and cheering, and it made me feel really good. I know the feeling, because it happened to us five years ago.”
Steckly was inspired to gift the buffalo six years ago by members of Loko Koa, an organization of Christian Samoan-Canadians headed by Lima Nanai.
“Lima asked, how can we serve the people?” said Loko Koa board chair Wayne Johnson. “What is the area where we can help bring back their identity in a practical way? And after praying, his heart told him ‘I want to give a herd of buffalo’.”
Johnson then approached Steckly and asked if he would consider gifting a herd of buffalo to Peepeekisis Cree Nation. Though he originally asked for 10, Steckly decided to give 22.
“It has been a very good experience,” Steckly said. “We’ve made a lot of good friends, and I would do it all over again. If someone else feels that they’re led to do this, I say, don’t hesitate.”
Acoose is already planning to pay the gift forward once Zagime Anishinabek’s herd has grown.
“We’re going to start reaching out to local First Nations right away,” she said. “We’ll start trying to locate who we want to provide these buffalo along to, and we’ll help get them prepared. They’ll learn along with us.”