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Waterhen Bison Ranch Under Construction

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MAY 1989      p16  
On May 18, the Waterhen Band held a sod turning ceremony for their Bison Ranch which is currently under construction. This was held in conjunction with the grand opening of their store and resort.

Band members, guests, and government representatives joined in to help celebrate the occasion. Chief Fred Martel, in his address to the crowd, said that, "our elders chose land near lakes for fishing, hunting and trapping. This has served us well for the past hundred years. Now we must look to after native uses that will serve us for the next hundred years."

He also praised all his band staff for their dedication and hard work to bring these projects to reality.

George McLeod, M.L.A. for Meadow Lake, said that these business enterprises on Waterhen make good economic sense and provide employment for local people. He also said that he is pleased that the provincial government was involved in this nonconventional agricultural enterprise of buffalo ranching.

Mr. Ken Thomas, Manager of SIAP said that he was very pleased that the SIAP program was able to play a major role in the project. He cited assistance from SIAP district staff in drawing up the business plan and commented on financial support in the amount of $156,000 indirect contributions and SILCO loan guarantees. He pledged continued support as the project progresses.

Other keynote speakers included Len Taylor, MP for the Battlefords - Meadow Lake, Chief Percy Derocher, Ron Lagimodiere, Manager of Native and Northern Progress for the Department of Regional Industrial Expansion and John Michael, District Manager of Indian and Northern Affairs, Canada.

The bison project will start with a herd of 80 females and 8 bulls. It will be located on approximately one section of mostly improved grassland. The band also has extra land that is suitable for expansion.

The project will employ several people during the construction phase and a full time manager and part time help after it is fully operational. Forage supplies will be purchased from on-reserve cattlemen. The production will be marketed as either calves under contract or as slaughter animals.

The project will provide an information and experience base that other Native groups can draw on to enter into this agricultural enterprise which is very suited to on-reserve development.

The afternoon would up with everyone enjoying a buffalo steak barbeque hosted by the Waterhen Band.