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'New life, new hope': First Nations community excited to see buffalo herd grow

For the first time in more than 150 years, Cote First Nation had buffalo calves born on its land.

Chief George Cote said the calves are a symbol towards reconciliation and described them as representing new life, new hope, new strength, and resilience.

Cote First Nation was gifted a herd of buffalo comprising of 20 females and two males, last December. Now those buffalo have produced offspring. So far, there are 12 new calves roaming the pasture.

“All of things that we as First Nations have endured for hundreds of years … buffalo has shown us the way,” Cote said.

The herd is part of an agreement between Cote First Nation and Loko Koa, a division of Youth with a Mission. Loko Koa aims to be people of reconciliation.

“If we really believe that reconciliation is in its beginning, then somebody needs to sacrifice something,” said the director of Loko Koa, Lima Nanai.

Nanai was inspired after reading about settlers who tried to suppress First Nations by killing buffalo. “Let’s dream about returning something back,” he said.

Historically, buffalo sustained the life of many First Nations’ people, but they were driven to near extinction a century ago.

“I want Indigenous people of the north to be proud of their culture and their identity,” Nanai added.

Right now, the 22 buffalo that were originally gifted to Cote First Nation are still property of Loko Koa, but the offspring belong to Cote First Nation.

In a non-contractual agreement, Cote First Nations will give Loko Koa 20 females and two males from their herd in five years. Loko Koa will then give those buffalo to another Treaty 4 First Nation.

The agreement also states that the buffalo are not to be used for economic gain. Only males who are from age two to four can be killed, and must only be used for ceremony or to serve a community event.

“We can come here and enjoy looking at the buffalo,” Chief Cote explained. “Knowing our herd is increasing is the best feeling ever.” Top Stories

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