Tar Sands Healing Walk Press Release

More Than 250 First Nations and Allies From Across North America Gather In Alberta To Raise Awareness

First Nations delegations from British Columbia and Ontario show growing concern and resolve against tar sands infrastructure projects across Canada.

FORT MCMURRAY ALBERTA (August 4, 2012) – Hundreds of First Nations leaders from BC, Alberta, the NWT and Ontario along with First Nation actress Tantoo Cardinal and allies from across North America, gathered in Fort McMurray today, to walk 13-kilometres through the visceral landscape of tar sands operations to bring attention to the destructive impacts of tar sands projects and pipelines on surrounding communities and the environment.

First Nation representatives from the Heiltsuk (BC), Yinka Dene (BC), Coastal First Nations (BC), the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Six Nations (Ontario) and Aamijiwnaang (Ontario) joined with local First Nations leaders in a traditional mixing of the waters ceremony, bringing water from their respective territories as a symbol of importance of the protection of water and the sacred connection to mother earth.

Local elders led the group in prayers along the route that was once valuable northern Boreal forest and fertile traditional hunting, fishing and gathering grounds, stopping in the four directions to lay down tobacco as an offering for healing of the land.

“We have come from all over North America to walk together through the heart of the destruction caused by the ever-expanding tar sands and offer prayers for the healing of the land and its people,” said Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus. “For more than 500 years governments have fought over our lands and resources. It’s time the provincial and federal governments sit down with the First Nations, the rightful owners of these lands and resources, to decide if and when these lands should be developed.”

The third annual healing walk was organized by Keepers of the Athabasca, a network of First Nation, Metis and allied communities along the Athabasca River that includes people whose lives have been directly impacted by tar sands operations.

“The places where we used to pick berries and find our medicines have been destroyed by rapid tar sands projects,” said Anthony Ladouceur, Councillor of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “Our people have lived here for thousands of years, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue to live off the land with industry expanding all around us.”

The Alberta tar sands currently produce approximately 1.8 million barrels of oil per day; if industry and government’s expansion plans are approved that number could reach six million barrels per day. Local opposition to Shell’s two proposed open pit mine applications is growing, along with North American-wide resistance to pipeline proposals. Four pipelines are being proposed to transport tar sands oil: Enbridge Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain, Trans Canada Keystone XL, and Enbridge Line 9 reversal.

“I am deeply honoured to have the opportunity to participate in the 3rd Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “This sacred walk serves to remind us that we, as parents and grandparents, have the unconditional responsibility to safeguard and pass on the legacy of respecting and caretaking Mother Earth, entrusted to us by our ancestors, to our children and grandchildren.”

“This walk creates strength and unity among the people who have to live with the destructive impacts of tar sands. Together, we are more empowered to ensure a clean and healthy world for future generations,” said Roland Woodward Chair of the Keepers of the Athabasca.

The walk was not a protest, but a spiritual gathering to offer prayers for the healing of Mother Earth and all those negatively impacted by tar sands projects and associated infrastructure. Participants walked along Highway 63 past Suncor and Syncrude’s operations to help heal what has been destroyed and to give each other the spiritual strength to carry on.

To Arrange Media Interviews :

Eriel Deranger 780-903-6598
Melina Laboucan-Massimo 780-504-5567

Roland Woodward, Keepers of the Athabasca, 780-972-1339
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, 250-490-5314
Chief Bill Erasmus, Dene Nation 613-859-5063
Anthony Ladouceur, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation 780-881-5115


For Immediate Release: First Nation meet with Alberta government proposing First Nation driven co-management and conservation in Northern Alberta

First Nation meet with Alberta government proposing First Nation driven co-management and conservation in Northern Alberta


JULY 10TH, 2012 EDMONTON, AB – Last week the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) met with Alberta Minister of Environment McQueen and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Campbell to discuss a new First Nation driven report entitled Níh boghodi: We are the stewards of our land developed by ACFN with support from the Firelight Group. It outlinesa co-management stewardship plan for woodland caribou, barren-ground caribou and wood bison in Alberta based on traditional Dene ecological knowledge, sound conservation science and habitat protection and ACFN’s unique treaty and traditional rights. Massive industrial development and poor management practices are identified in the report as key factors in the decline of species in the region.

“Currently government and industry are not adequately addressing the annihilation of species and habitat necessary for survival in our traditional lands,” stated Chief Allan Adam of ACFN.  “Our stewardship plan addresses this problem and provides a tool for sustaining our way of life with community-based implementation and monitoring goals in partnership with science-based monitoring and management programs. We hope our discussions with the provincial government opened the doors to build a partnership and implement the necessary co-management and stewardship in the region.”

ACFN has held discussions with past provincial leadership regarding co-management of ACFN traditional lands with little progress.  Although Alberta’s new leadership gave no clear indication about moving forward with co-management, ACFN is optimistic the government will follow through with the “open door” promise to continue exploring the implementation of this new stewardship plan and ensuring responsible management and sustainable development of Treaty lands in Northern Alberta.

Níh boghodi, based on pro-active protection and restoration of habitat, establishes a Protection Zone north of the Firebag River with no new permits or development. The Stewardship zone, south of the Firebag River, is designed to provide a transitional area between the Protection zone and other areas with higher industrial development.  Much of the ACFN’s lands are already impacted or currently under threat from existing and proposed tar sands development. The ACFN hopes that a co-management partnership with the provincial government will protect these lands and cultural keystone species from further erosion and annihilation.

Pat Marcel, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Elder and co-author of Níh boghodi stated, “Dené sųłiné people of ACFN have unique rights to the lands identified for protection and stewardship in our report. Under the 1932 Game Act, the Crown set aside land from the 27th baseline north to the NWT, east to Saskatchewan, and west to Wood Buffalo Nation Park, for the exclusive use of the Chipewyan people.” He went on to say, “We have relied on our traditional lands and all they provide since time immemorial. Thunzea (woodland caribou), et’thén (barren ground caribou) and dechen yághe ejere (wood bison) have a central role our culture. Immediate action is necessary and it’s time for the governments to work with our people to ensure the protection of our treaty rights and the caribou and bison in our region.”

A copy of the full report is available online at www.acfn.com and http://www.thefirelightgroup.com/in-the-news/acfn-caribou-and-bison-project-nih-boghodi-we-are-the-stewards-of-our-land




For more information contact:


Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598 to set up an interview with Elder & co-author Pat Marcel or Chief Allan Adam.




US Senate rejects amendment to Transportation Bill and approval for Keystone XL Pipeline

The cross border battle in the tar sands achieved a victory today.   The Hoeven Amendment to the Transportation Bill, which would have over-ridden the President’s recent denial of the Keystone XL pipeline and mandated its approval,  failed to get enough votes to pass through the Senate.  This amendment would have undercut processes to protect the public’s safety, health and economic well being by bypassing the need for proper environmental review of the project.  The vote was 56-42 in favor of KXL, however under Senate rules it needs 60 votes to pass.

It’s clear that our voices, our concerns and hard work are no longer falling on deaf ears.  US leaders are no longer following suit with it’s Canadian counterparts who appear to rubber stamp all projects without adequate review, assessment or consultation with First Nations.   US leaders are willing to take a stand and support the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline and the massive dirty energy projects associated with it that would ultimately impact the waterways, critical lands and the health and safety of it’s people through the US heartland.  If only we could see the same protections being put in place here in Canada.

The reason this rejection is such a victory for the people of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is simple, without adequate delivery methods for tar sands oil producers will be choking on the oil they plan on or currently mine/produce.  Without massive pipeline allowing for cheap transportation of oil major oil companies, like Shell, will be left holding hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil with no method to transportation. Current tar sands transportation lines cannot adequately handle the proposed expansion and increases development in tar sands production.

I want to stress the Keystone XL pipeline is not gone and rest assured new routes and new pipelines with be proposed. However, what has been shown is that our concerns are finally being heard and that we can make a difference.

Again, I would like to appalled all those that worked tirelessly to make this happen and repeat the words of Chief Allan Adam when we first heard the news of the rejection of the pipeline this January:

“The decision to reject this pipeline comes from the opposition of the many Indigenous communities and our allies.  The Mother Earth Accord outlined the serious implications the pipeline would’ve had on the people, our rights and our lands.  This is a major victory for Indigenous communities across Turtle Island. We hope the Canadian government recognizes Obama’s rejection as a sign to slow down the current pace of development in the tar sands.  Rapid expansion in the tar sands has left developers struggling for inexpensive ways to ship, refine and sell their oil.  Stopping these massive pipelines is key to stopping further destruction of our territory.  We are still working to oppose Shell’s proposed tar sands expansion of open pit mining projects in our traditional territory in Northern Alberta. We hope that you all join the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation this year in opposing Shell’s projects and the development of the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  Together we can protect our lands, our futures and our treaty rights.”