Saskatchewan

New plains bison herd a source of pride for Sask. First Nation

The Flying Dust First Nation received 31 bison from Elk Island National Park earlier this month

Posted: February 09, 2019

Plains bison destined for Saskatchewan's Flying Dust First Nation kick up snow as they run through the handling facility at Elk Island National Park. (Image courtesy of Elk Island National Park)

The Flying Dust First Nation is the home of a new plains bison herd.

The band, located near Meadow Lake, Sask., received 31 bison from Elk Island National Park, Alta., earlier this month as part of the park's bison management program.

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Another six bison have been added from a local ranch.

The new herd is now grazing on 230 acres of natural grassland about two kilometres from the Flying Dust townsite.

It just brings pride to the community, just to see them there. - Flying Dust First Nation Chief Jeremy Norman

Band chief Jeremy Norman said the bison are part of the band's focus on food sovereignty, as well as offer the chance to reconnect with the past.

"They are such a beautiful animal," he said. "It just brings pride to the community, just to see them there. Basically, the community wanted buffalo and they're a healthy food source."

Norman said they won't begin harvesting the herd for meat until they have at least 80 animals.

He estimated that is still three years away.

Even though plains bison have been roaming on a nearby ranch for years, Norman said there is a different feeling now that a new herd is owned by the First Nation.

"They feel it's something that belongs to them. They will see the rewards of it," he said. "So when it comes to harvesting time, it's the whole community that shares it."

Norman said it's also a good time to sell bison meat.

"The price, I believe right now, is about four dollars a pound for bison," he said. "I mean that's really good prices. So I mean if you wanted to make money off of it, that opportunity is definitely there."

Elk Island transferred 25 wood bison to the Saulteaux First Nation last year.