The Onion Lake Cree Nation is preparing to welcome approximately 30 bison from Elk Island National Park.

The First Nation said that Elk Island has a surplus of Prairie and Woodland bison and view the acquisition as an opportunity to promote tourism, culture and heritage.

“We’ve always been connected to the buffalo spirit,” said Okimaw (Chief) Henry Lewis.

Lewis explained that the bison would provide a viewing opportunity for traveling foreign tourist groups, enhance the education of the area students getting hands on experience with the bison and increase food security for the First Nation.

“There’s a lot of stuff that we can use on the Buffalo. The hide gives an opportunity for the younger generation on how to skin and make a hide of the buffalo,” stated councilor Hubert Pahtayken.

The first shipment of bison is due to arrive the week of February 7.

To prepare for the arrival, the First Nation has been installing fencing on the perimeter of a 10,000 acre compound, located approximately 30 minutes from Lloydminster.

The compound is designed to be self-sufficient for the bison in allowing for access to water and adequate grass feed. With the bison protected from predation, its population is expected to grow rapidly. Preliminary research from the First Nation could see the herd grow into the hundreds in the first decade.

The First Nation is planning a celebration for the arrival of the bison.