MUSCOWPETUNG, SASK. -- For the first time in over a century a herd of bison will roam on the Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation.

Community helper Jim Pratt says there is a renewed energy and power because of the return of the bison to their land. Bison are a symbol of the connection between the people and Mother Earth.

“When they come out of that trailer, you could feel the strength and that power,” said Pratt. “The songs of our elders, who welcomed them here to our community.”

The band purchased 15 bison to benefit all the members of the community.

“It brought the buffalo back to our land on the spiritual side of it,” said Chief Melissa Tavita. “Seeing those buffalo come out of the trailer was a very emotional experience for a lot of people.”

Gwendy Anaquod’s late father dreamt that one day the bison would return to the land of his community. She got to see his dream come true.

“For me, watching the buffalo be released – knowing my dad really wanted it – it was very emotional,” said Anaquod.

Bison rancher Ron Steckly has a close relationship with many First Nation communities. He has sold bison to Peepeekisis and Sakimay in the past. Steckly said he finds joy in bringing the bison back to First Nations.

“I’m very happy to see them come out of the trailer,” said Steckly. “I know what the bison are going to do and to hear how happy the people are and their reactions – it’s very fulfilling for me.”

Pratt says these bison will grow with the community for generations.

“They’re apart of this community moving forward,” said Pratt. “They’re here to give us strength as a community. So our community is safe, healthy and our community will start – which they have – to do good things for everyone here.”

Chief Tavita sees the bison as protectors.

“In a way, they’re protecting our community and our people.”

More than 12,000 bison roam on ranches and in national protection sites in Canada. Muscowpetung will use this herd for food and for other traditional uses, just as their ancestors did. The band said it hopes to continue its relationship with Steckly and grow their herd moving forward.

“When [our people] drive down the road, they get to say, ‘that’s our buffalo,’” said Pratt.