The purchase is part of an initiative called “Sohkastwâwin,” which is a Cree term meaning “the act of being resilient.”
Anzac, Alberta–(Newsfile Corp. – May 31, 2022) – Willow Lake Métis Nation (WLMN), a Métis community whose members primarily reside in Anzac, Alberta, has purchased land in Anzac to reset its ecosystem and provide their community a permanent home. The land acquisition was made possible thanks to the Astisiy partnership agreement with Suncor Energy signed last year.
The Nation has purchased approximately 205 acres of land. Sohkastwâwin, which includes an eco-bison ranch and local food source, community culture centre, Métis housing, and local power generation, will provide a sustainable future for WLMN. Sohkastwâwin is the community’s way of taking climate action and ensuring a resilient Nation.
“We are no longer a landless Métis community,” says Justin Bourque, CEO of WLMN. “Sohkastwâwin reinforces our self-governance model and the actions we take now to develop resilience will change the course of our Nation’s future.”
Last September, Willow Lake Métis Nation, Suncor, and seven other Indigenous communities in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo announced a historic partnership. The Astisiy Limited Partnership acquired all of TC Energy’s equity interest in the Northern Courier Pipeline resulting in 15 per cent ownership of the pipeline. As a result of revenue generated from that partnership, the Willow Lake Métis Nation was able to acquire this land. Sohkastwâwin is the first publicly announced meaningful investment related to Astisiy.
“On behalf of Suncor, I want to congratulate the Willow Lake Métis Nation on this historic announcement,” says Peter Zebedee, Suncor’s executive vice president, Mining and Upgrading. “Together with eight communities, we formed Astisiy to help provide long-term, stable revenues for all of the communities involved. Today’s land purchase serves as an example of the economic reconciliation made possible through increased Indigenous involvement in energy projects.”
In collaboration with the Resilience Institute, WLMN plans to take a transdisciplinary approach to revitalizing, developing, and monitoring the land, which has been highly impacted by industry activity. The Resilience Institute is a charitable organization dedicated to climate change research and education that partners with local and Indigenous Peoples. One of the first goals is to establish an ecologically healthy landscape, which includes reconnecting the historic relationship between bison and the land.
“Bison, like the Métis peoples, are resilient,” says Bourque. The Métis helped shape Canada and the bison helped shape our ecosystem. Our Nation will work in tandem with the bison to reclaim our land.”
A celebration will be held on Friday, June 3, on the newly acquired land in recognition of this historic Métis milestone.
“As a result of Astisiy, WLMN has an unprecedented opportunity,” continues Bourque. “Sohkastwâwin will expand our self-sufficiency for generations to come by creating an economy for our peoples – on our own land.”
About Willow Lake Métis Nation
Willow Lake Métis Nation (WLMN) is a Métis community whose citizens now mostly reside in the community of Anzac, Alberta. WLMN’s roots lie in the history of the fur trade in Alberta and the economic and political circumstances that evolved during and after the fur trade. The historical Willow Lake community was close to trade and travel routes that connected Fort McMurray and Willow Lake to Lac La Loche to the east, to Fort Chipewyan to the north, and to Lac La Biche to the south. Willow Lake Métis people lived on and derived their livelihood from the lands between these locations through much of the later fur trade period, and WLMN people continue to use these lands to exercise their Indigenous rights, sustain their culture and identity as Métis people, support their community, and pass their knowledge and way of life on to their descendants. Key Métis family lines represented in the WLMN community include Bourque, Cardinal, Huppie, Lavallee, McKenzie, Quintal, and Whitford.
For more information, visit www.wlmn.ca