Topic: Environment

The Iroquois Speak out for Mother Earth

L-R: Masie Shenandoah Oneida Nation from Clayton Logan Seneca Nation, John Mohawk Seneca Nation from Audrey Shenandoah Onondaga Nation, Chief Oren Lyons from Onondaga Nation photo by Danny Beaton Mohawk Nation taken at Lehman and Alice Gibson Farm Six Nations Territory

For the thousands of years the Haudenosaunee Confederacy founded by the Peacemaker has been a powerful force in the protection of Mother Earth. The sacred Roll Call of Chiefs, also called the Hai Hai, which is a national anthem of unity, shows the calling of the chiefs of the various nations, represented according to clans based on natural species, such the Bear, Wolf and Turtle.

The original five nations of the Haudenosaunee founded by the Peacemaker, developed a civilization which was in remarkable sustainability with the life forces of the blessed area around the Finger Lakes and the Mohawk Valley. (often termed Iroquoia) It is revealing that the capital of the League founded by the Peacemaker is at the same site near Lake Onondaga as it was when it was founded. The Onondaga Chief, the Taddadho, still chairs the Confederacy councils.

The Haudenosaunee developed a gentle way of life that did not damage the land that blessed them. They obtained rich yields of the three sisters of corn, beans and squash by farming away from the edges of streams, that provided a great yield of fish, many of which, from Euro-American abuse, such as the Lake Sturgeon (which provides caviar from its eggs), are now so rare that any fishing would threaten them with extinction. In the 1790s the Oneida Chiefs tried in vain to explain to the representatives of the new government of United States that farming and villages should be kept away from streams to protect fish.

The Haudenosaunee cared for the forests around the Finger Lakes a great garden. They deliberately modified these forests in a gentle way. Trees such as maple which provides sugar and syrup were deliberately encouraged. Modifications were also made in the landscape to assist various trees of the Juglen family, which produce edible nuts. These food forest trees include Hickories, Butternut and the Black Walnut. Villages were lined with trees that were orchards of edible native fruits. These included cherries, plums and the Papaw. Peaches were later introduced as a result of French contact.

Through their remarkable diplomatic skills encouraged by the Great Lake of Peace’s mandate to foster the Good Mind, the Haudenosaunee were able to make the Finger Lakes a garden of peace and ecological stability for most of the two centuries of European contact before the American Revolution. This attraction was why in the early 18th century the sixth nation of the Confederacy, the Tuscarora journey from their homeland in South Carolina, all the way to the Finger Lakes. It became a refuge for many other allied nations such as the Delaware, (Pennsylvania), the Tupelo, (Virginia) Samponi, and the Nanticoke. (from Maryland). Iroquoia was a rare peace garden in the English colonies dominated by schemers who would devastate forests by fires to make ashes for soap and cheap foraging for domestic livestock.

When the violence of the American Revolution began to breakout in 1775 with an invasion of Mohawk territory on the way to occupy Montreal, Iroquoia was a remarkable refuge of peace on the Anglo-American colonial frontier. The tragedy of the American Invasion can be seen in the records of the pillage of the US Army attack on the Finger Lakes heartland called the Sullivan Expedition. It recorded lists of well built homes, vast fields of corn, and orchards of cherries, plums and peaches.

Despite the American pillage after the revolution the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was able to establish itself in Canada at Grand River, although some communities of all the Six Nations remained in the United States. (where a Confederacy Council remained at Onondaga. In Grand River the Confederacy was to become a powerful force in the protection of the environment beginning in the 1820s. One remarkable leader. John Brant (Tekarihogen) was a Mohawk Chief of the Turtle Clan. Brant challenged the destructive flooding the Grand River by powerful canal building interests which flooded the most fertile farmlands of the Confederacy. To stop such plunder he ran for the Legislative Assembly and was entered in 1831. He was ousted by a judicial challenge on the basis that some of his electors did not own enough property. Brant died a quite heroic death during a by-election seeking return to the legislature when he perished during a cholera epidemic.

After Brant’s death a new Mohawk Confederacy leader began to emerge George Johnson a condoled chief of the Wolf Clan. During his youth he came under the influence of a formidable Ojibwe leader, Peter Jones, a pioneer forest conservationist. The two would be horrified when at night they came upon the corpses of native people who were dead drunk on the road after falling down from wagons in the winter cold. These victims had allowed white swindlers to clear cut their location ticket forests in exchange for whiskey.

This deadly whiskey driven clear cutting emerged since the forested tract of around 55,000 acres of the New Credit and Six Nations reservations was one of the last well wooded lands in southwestern Ontario. The devastation was so complete that the forests had been so horribly successively burned that trees could not regenerate. Much of what would soon become Ontario had been turned into a desert of dangerously marching sands.

In 1856 Johnson used the Hai Hai condolence ritual when made a Wolf Clan Chief to draw attention to the threat to the community from the marching sands unleashed by the illiterate farmers of Canada West who burned and plundered forests. Following the gathering on the Woods Edge, which enquires of conditions on largely vanished communities of the Finger Lakes, after the recitation of the names of the League’s founders such as Hiawatha, Taddadho, Johnson orchestrated a prophetic warning.

The resounding chants of the names of the founders the Hai Hai at Johnson’s condolence came a vivid warning. This was that the “degenerate successors” had “inherited their names but not their mighty intellects: and in the flourishing region which they left, nothing but a desert remains.” At this time the warnings of the Hai Hai had become quite literal since the Six Nations was threatened by the same fate as nearby Norfolk County, where once thriving farms were being buried in sands.

Johnson led a Confederacy team of 12 Forest Wardens, paid out of revenues obtained from seizures of illegally harvested timber. Johnson’s youngest daughter Pauline would write of the Confederacy’s heroic patrols to stop the whisky dealers and forest poachers. She described in her short story “My Mother” how her Father, “Night after night” concealed himself in the marshes, the forests, the trails, the concession line, the river road, the Queen’s highway”. Here his team of Confederacy bailiffs would “seize” all the swindled “timber he could, destroying all the whiskey, turning the white liquor traders off Indian lands and fighting only as a young, inspired man can fight.”

Johnson was able through a Coroner’s Inquest gather evidence to charge a Middleport tavern keeper, John Mills in the deaths of timber poaching trade found frozen in the cold. Mills responded with an assassination attempt on January 21, 1865. Recovering following a mile long walk to his home Chiefswood, Johnson was able to have Mills locked up for three years in the Kingston Penitentiary.

Eventually following two more assassination threats through its “little force of zealous Indians” the Confederacy was able to effectively curb forest poaching. This set in motion events that would cause the forests at Grand River to double from their 25 per cent cover when Johnson died in 1884 to over half the Territory today.

With the forests of his own community now secure Johnson embarked on an effort to change public attitudes towards forests in Ontario. He became an active member of the Ontario Fruit Growers Association, helping to turn them into the first environmental protection organization in Canada. In these meeting he met two men Charles Drury and Edmund Prout, whose son and grandsons respectively (E.C. Drury and Edmund Zavitz) would turn back the marching deserts that threatened to bury Ontario with sand.

What was most tragic about after having done so much to rescue Ontario from ecological disaster In 1921 the Confederacy council was stripped of legal recognition by the Canada government. The council house was seized along with sacred Wampum. The crackdown against native peoples rights in Canada was so severe that the Confederacy was forced to hire an American lawyer, James Decker, to argue their case to the public since, any Canadian attorney would be disbarred for having them as a client. The oldest daughter of George Johnson, Evelyn had here attempt to gift

After the invasion of the Confederacy Council House was there was no other place in Canada than Six Nations had the iron heel aspect of a foreign occupation. This situation was more oppressive sense nowhere else in Canada had the denial of political rights unleashed such a cruel sting. A nation which once elected a Confederacy Chief to the legislature and helped wrest the return of political rights after they had been stripped away between 1858 and 1986, felt this injustice most grievously.

The Confederacy challenged the colonialist occupation most effectively by a 1959 occupation of the Six Nations Council offices, originally built opened in 1864 a few months before the first attempt by timber poachers to assassinate its leading conservationist George Johnson. The Mohawk elder Danny Beaton while talking to Cree elder Vern Harper got some sense of the brutality of the occupied Canada in the 1950s. The combination of priests and Indian agents that ran reservations could at whim prohibit sweetgrass ceremonies and sweats, using police to shut them down at whim. He saw this with an Innu couple the Pasteens in Labrador, who explained to him how without notices, many Innu families had homes destroyed by flood waters unleashed by surprise by the Churchill River dam.

The band offices, now a library under lease to the Confederacy, was occupied. The occupiers were led by a leader of the Mohawk Ironworkers, Lehman Gibson, who would later become an important elder shaping the work to protect the environment carried out by Danny Beaton, a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, like John Brant. The worked to keep the Grand River a refuge for now endangered turtles.

A few months after the dramatic occupation, which received positive international support including from the newly swept to power Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, shook Canada up. Political rights which had been swept away were now restored within a few months. Soon afterwards oppressions such the residential school system, the repressive rule by Indian Agents and priests ended. Native communities began to use their new powers to protect the earth. Reside Gwitchin have worked with their Alaskan brothers to safeguard the habitat of the Porcupine Caribou which roam across the international border. Throughout the country co-management agreements with native communities are forged to reduce environmental impacts of forestry and mining. In the 1980s Beaton would work closely with the Gwitchin elder Sara James, to defeat schemes for oil drilling in the calving grounds for the Porcupine Caribou herd Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Beaton assisted the Cayuga environmentalist Norm Jacobs in his dramatic actions to use the Confederacy’ vision of “peace, power and righteousness” to protect the earth. This included defeating a scheme leaked to Jacobs by environmentalist Pat Potter through government documents, to turn much of the Grand River Territory into a garbage dump for Toronto wastes. Jacobs halted efforts by waste haulers to wreck the reserve by giving the Ontario Ministry of Environment the Confederacy’s authorization to act as its agent. He defeated a scheme to create a toxic waste dump in a wetland known as the Lower Cayuga Slough Forest. Beaton would later be raised up to similar heights by his critical role in stopping through an occupation, Dump Site 41, planned above the world’s purest water near Elmvale in Springwater Township.

Beaton was part of an effective team that included himself, Jacobs, and the Onondaga Chief Arni General. Although they could not stop the Red Hill expressway which tragically was bulldozed through during Jacobs dying moments in a Hamilton hospital, the trio helped defeat a more massive scheme, that if built would have been a longer path of destruction. The expressway would have sliced up the Caistor Canborough Slough Forest, a wetland refuge for endangered Canadian amphibians, such as the Western Chorus Frog

Beaton lived up the the Hai Hai’s message calling for a rebirth of the mighty intellects of Founders of the League while speaking in Tyendinaga. He spoke at the opening of a gallery of his some of his photos of distinguished native elders from across Turtle Island. Beaton explained how “In my work for the past thirty years I have helped in win some victories. However, despite this the situation is getting worse, with the oceans that have so far being moderating the climate crisis being impacted. We are looking at an ecosystem collapse”, Beaton warned.

Beaton stressed that it should be appreciated that Ontario is blessed through the impact of the Great Lakes and water generally, to be an area of stability than other parts of the world impacted by climate change. We must protect our waters, a lesson brought home to me by walking around Lake Simcoe to protect its waters.”

In what Beaton proposed, he is working in the traditions of the great Mohawk Chiefs of the Turtle Clan. While John Brant spoke of the threats to farmland by flooding induced by dams and flooding. Beaton drew attention to the dangerous posed to these lands from urban sprawl. As his Turtle Clan chiefs in the past did, Beaton implored, “We must protect our most fertile farmland and water for seven generations.”

In memory of Alicja Rozanska

www.dannybeaton.ca

Researchers offer new guidelines and criteria for accurate dating of ancient clam gardens

Photo by Keith Holmes from the Hakai Institute

The Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia have been harvesting shellfish from specially-constructed clam gardens for at least 3500 years, according to a study released February 27, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Nicole Smith of the Hakai Institute, Dana Lepofsky of Simon Fraser University, British Columbia and colleagues. This research offers new methods for tracking the history and development of mariculture.

Clam gardens are traditional mariculture structures consisting of a rock wall and flat terrace that serve as a sheltered habitat for clams in intertidal zones of beaches. It is known that these gardens increase clam productivity and abundance and have long been important food sources for coastal Indigenous cultures. However, since clam gardens often have complex formation histories, they can be difficult to date, and it is thus difficult to track mariculture trends through time.

In this study, Smith, Lepofsky, and colleagues surveyed nine ancient clam gardens in the Kanish and Waiatt bays of Quadra Island, British Columbia. At each site, they identified suitable samples for constraining the age of construction of the gardens, focusing on shell samples from within or beneath the garden walls and beneath the terraces. In total, they collected 35 radiocarbon dates on the shells of clams, snails, and barnacles ranging from at least 3,500 years ago to the 20th Century.

The authors also corroborated their dates with data on the regional history of sea level change, and with dates from other marine management features in the region. They provide a set of guidelines for determining accurate ages of three different forms of clam gardens, which they hope will allow for more detailed tracking of mariculture history in the Americas. They note, however, that their methods are preliminary, and will likely require fine-tuning at clam gardens of different regions and ages.

For thousands of years, First Nations of the Northwest Coast relied on clams as a staple food. On-going harvesting to support dense and widespread human populations could have depleted this important resource were it not for traditional systems of management that instead maintained and increased clam abundance.  One such management technique was the building of rock-walled terraces in the intertidal to create what are known today as “clam gardens”.  These human-built terraces created clam habitat where clams could flourish.  Oral traditions, songs, and local Indigenous knowledge, as well as the archaeological record indicate that clam gardens were built and used throughout the coast.   However, because clam gardens are constructed of rock, it is difficult to determine the age of these features using standard archaeological techniques.  In our study, we radiocarbon dated clams and other marine organisms that were trapped when the clam garden walls were built or when the terraces were accumulating sediment, and combined this information wtih our knowledge of changing sea levels in the past.   We identified three general kinds of clam gardens: those built on bedrock, those built on boulder slopes, and those built to extend already existing beaches.  Together, these data indicate that clam gardens were being built on the coast at least by 3,500 years ago in a wide range of beach settings.  This in unequivocal evidence for long-term and sustainable management of coastal ecosystems by Northwest Coast peoples — and supports what Northwest Coast Indigenous Peoples have always said about their traditional marine management practices.

Saving Mother Earth, Indigenous Guardians Leading the Way

The Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program began in the summer of 2018 as a means of funding environmental initiatives for Indigenous peoples. The program was brought to fruition by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and helps organizations protect and preserve the environment and important ecosystems on Indigenous lands.

Marilyne Lavoie, spokesperson for ECCC, says funding is allocated on an individual level. Each each Indigenous group works with ECCC to co-develop a personalized plan determining the governance and priorities of their program. Lavoie says this strengthens the role Indigenous people have in conservation of their own lands and helps develop better partnerships.

“By working together with Indigenous peoples, other governments, and all Canadians, we will strengthen networks of protected and conserved areas, the cornerstone of biodiversity, and support reconciliation and the sustainability of local communities,” Lavoie says. “The insights and contributions of Indigenous peoples are essential to understanding and protecting our ecosystems.”

Twenty-eight programs received funding as part of the pilot program in all but three of Canada’s provinces and territories.

An aerial shot of Walpole Island First Nation. Photo courtesy of Walpole Island First Nation.

RESOURCE PROTECTION PROGRAM, WALPOLE ISLAND, ONTARIO

Walpole Island First Nation (Bkejwanong) in Ontario first received funding in 2019 for its Natural Heritage Program, particularly the Bkejwanong Eco-Keepers youth program. Clint Jacobs, of the Walpole Island First Nation, says they’re also submitting a proposal to extend the funding into a multi-year project.

The current funding helped to purchase, protect, and restore natural habitats on Walpole Island. Jacobs says it protects, maps, and asses various at-risk species, develops education and outreach programs, and advised university research projects, among many other initiatives.

Walpole Island has one of the country’s most biologically diverse ecosystems, Jacob says. It includes large wetlands, tallgrass prairies, oak savannas, and large forested areas.

The Bkejwanong Eco-Keepers monitor local wildlife, participate in habitat restoration projects, maintenance of trails, and environmental education.

Jacobs says youth can work in the summer, providing them with many opportunities such as CPR and canoeing certification, survival skills, and flora and fauna surveying and monitoring.

“They also roll up their sleeves to carry out fieldwork to help doncut reptile inventories, species at risk surveys and monitoring, freshwater mussel monitoring, and removal of invasive plant species,” Jacobs says. “They connect with knowledge holders to learn about our history, traditional teachings, medicine plants, and roles in Anishnaabeg culture. These activities empower the youth to be positive role models and give back to the community.”

Jonathan Bruno (Athabasca Chipewyan Community Based Monitoring) sampling water at Firebag River.
Jonathan Bruno (Athabasca Chipewyan Community Based Monitoring) sampling water at Firebag River. Photo by Bruce Maclean.

COMMUNITY BASED MONITORING PROGRAM, FORT CHIPEWYAN, ALBERTA

The Community Based Monitoring (CBM) program is an initiative run by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.

The two first nations invest in both traditional knowledge and scientific monitoring. They monitor water quality and quantity, climate changes during winter, and tracking of wild foods.

The Mikisew Cree First Nation has four guardians (environmental technicians) and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has one full-time staff member with more members assisting as needed.

Bruce Maclean, environmental consultant with the CBM program, says the guardians received funding in fall of 2018. The guardians trek out weekly to monitor the water and lands and work alongside the government, universities, and foundations.

“We are leaders in protecting the Peace Athabasca Delta, the traditional territory of the Mikisew Cree (also known as Wood Buffalo National Park) which is also designated as a UNESCO site,” Maclean says.

He says the funding made it possible to hire students, engage with elders, collect more data and increase storage collection. He stresses this funding helped to eliminates barriers to their success due to the remoteness of the community.

Pimachiowin Aki. Photo by Hidehiro Otake.

PIMACHIOWIN AKI WORLD HERITAGE SITE LAND GUARDIANS, WINNIPEG, MANITOBA

The Pimachiowin Aki is Canada’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site that was chosen for the Indigenous Guardians program for both its cultural and natural attributes. The land became a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its wild and varied landscape including lakes, rivers, wetlands, and boreal forest.

It encompasses the traditional lands of four Anishanaabeg communities: the Bloodvein River, Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi, and Poplar River First Nations. These nations work together with provincial governments to form the Pimachiowin Aki Corporation, which employs Land Guardians who help to conserve, monitor, and protect the lands and waters in Ji-ganawendamang Gidakiiminaan, or “keeping the land”.

Executive Director Alison Haugh says as a World Heritage site, they are required to fulfill obligations to observe, record, and report on the state of conservation. She says it’s created stable and meaningful employment for First Nations.

“We’re working to contribute to the world’s understanding of nature, culture, and connections in protected areas,” Haugh says.

She says the funding was integral to keeping the guardians working in year round. In its previous iteration, the First Nations had to lay them off due to lack of money. It also enabled them to bring in technology for the guardians, such as cameras with built-in GPS, social media channels, and a new site.

The very important Maskwi birch tree, which provided shelter, fabric, and fibres for everything from wigwams to canoes for the Mi’kmaw people. Photo courtesy of UINR.

UNAMA’KI INSTITUTE OF NATURAL RESOURCES (UINR) AND CONFEDERACY OF MAINLAND MI’KMAQ PARKS GUARDIAN PROGRAM, TRURO, NOVA SCOTIA

The Guardian Program and Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) work to encourage Mi’kmaq participation in natural resources management and in providing employment. They are represented by the five Mi’kmaq communities of Unama’ki–Eskasoni, Wagmatcook, and We’koqma’q, Membertou, and Potlotek.

This includes their forestry division, which creates employment for Mi’kmaq people and strengthens local industry relationships. They also partner with graduate students to follow movements of aquatic species.

Moose have additionally proved to be an important resource for the Mi’kmaq peoples, including a spiritual significance. In response, UINR developed a Moose Management Plan. The Mi’kmaq Grand Council and Unama’ki Council of Elders work together to maintain a long-term plan for moose management that follows Mi’kmaq treaty rights.

Funding from the pilot program helps the parks guardian program, as well as UINR, to maintain traditional ways in combination with science in its research and natural resource management.

Water Protector Continues Working, Representing Her Generation

Autumn Peltier
Autumn Peltier by Linda Roy of Ireva photography

March 22 is designated as World Water Day – an annual UN observance day highlighting the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources with sponsored events around the world.

Here in Canada, the Water Docs Film Festival organization in Toronto honoured 14-year-old Autumn Peltier with the Water Docs 2019 World Water Warrior Award for her continued work in world water issues.

Autumn is a young lady from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory and is Canada’s youngest water activist. She has been raising awareness of water issues, participating in sacred water walks, and spoken at more than 200 different events while travelling around the world.

When Autumn addressed the United Nations on World Water Day 2018, she told international leaders to, “warrior up.” In her Water Doc Festival acceptance speech, Autumn said that she doesn’t do her water protection work to get award recognition.

“We do this because our water needs us now. Everything needs water,” said Autumn. “Our work will continue, as everyone, every child, every plant, every insect, and every animal deserves clean drinking water.”

First Nations Drum asked Autumn what she’s been doing since we interviewed her in September 2017. At that time she was in the running for the International Children’s Peace Prize, where she was among the top three. “I spent my World Water Day at home. I have been so busy and I’m still grieving the passing of my auntie Josephine Mandamin,” said Autumn. “I needed to spend my day doing what I needed to do for myself and remember my auntie, why I started advocating, and how I will proceed.”

She said that the state of our water in Canada and around the globe is in a crisis. As of April 2016, there were 78 long-term drinking water advisories affecting First Nations public water systems. As of July 2018, 34 (44 percent) of these long-term drinking water advisories were removed. The greatest number of advisories (11) was lifted in February 2018.

Drinking water advisories are public health protection notifications about real or potential health risks related to drinking water. Autumn says that when one “boil water advisory” is resolved, another one pops up. “Our water ain’t getting any better,” said Autumn. “Politicians can actually put things into action; no more talking and no more promises. What are you doing? What will you do to help the state of our water?”

I asked Autumn if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has lived up to his promise when he told her, “I understand that and I will protect the water.” She said that her faith in the Prime Minister Trudeau’s leadership is not good right now. “He bought a pipeline and approved it. My people are suffering in BC, and the waters are at risk,” said Autumn. “I know things take time, but our people have had boil water advisories longer than I’ve been alive, and that should not be.”

Autumn said she’ll continue to advocate for the protection of water but while this is important, schools is even more essential. “I’m in grade nine and it’s really hard to keep up with my studies, and sometimes it’s hard to travel. I don’t like missing school,” explained Autumn.

Stephanie Peltier is Autumn’s mother and she says her hopes for Autumn as a water protector is that her daughter makes a difference in people’s thinking about water’s Sacredness and the seriousness of climate change.  

“Also that she inspires more youth to think seriously about their future and the future of drinkable water around the globe,” said Peltier. “Autumn being at a young age still, my hopes is that her dreams come true to become a lawyer so she can fight for her peoples’ Human Rights and the lands and the waters, and for all the experience she is gaining at a young age to keep her on a good path.”

I asked Peltier if teens and friends of Autumn understand the important job her daughter is doing. “I believe teens are now learning and using their voices to create change. Autumn gets mail and messages from others her age,” said Pelter. “My advice is not just as a mother to a water protector, it’s as a parent of a child that had questions. When your child asks questions, answer as best as you can, listen to the concerns and refer them to people who know more than yourself. Always encourage your child and support them as much as you can because we only have one chance to make a difference in our child’s lives.”

Some quick facts: Canada ranks as one of the top consumers of water. Eleven liters (three gallons) run from the average tap per minute.

Autumn Peltier

BC First Nations Discuss Pipeline

Photo provided by Eagle Vision/Direct Horizontal

 

After the federal decision on May 29 to purchase Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project, Indigenous people have weighed in on every side of the pronouncement.
Currently, over a dozen lawsuits are filed against the Crown by Indigenous and environmental groups who oppose the pipeline expansion.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Squamish Nation, and Tsleil-Waututh Nation are some of the most vocal opposition to the pipeline, while outspoken supporters have included those such as the Cheam First Nation, Simpcw First Nation, and Whispering Pines Clinton Indian Band.

Kinder Morgan had previously listed signed benefits agreements with 43 First Nations, 33 of which were in B.C., however, in a recent report, two B.C. chiefs said they only signed the agreements because they felt their future was futile and not because of support for the project.

Trudeau visits pipeline committee
Prime Minister Trudeau recently met with the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee (IAMC), on June 5 at the Cheam First Nation reserve.

The committee advises regulators and monitors the expansion project. It’s constituted of 13 Indigenous representatives and six senior federal representatives. The committee states that participation by a community doesn’t indicate support nor approval but instead a “shared goal of safety and protection of environmental and Indigenous interests in the lands and waters.”

Cheam Chief Ernie Crey sits as co-chair on the committee.

Crey said the Prime Minister’s office reached out to the IAMC and requested an opportunity to meet. The Indigenous caucus raised five central issues to the Prime Minister.

Some of those involved transforming the IAMC from an advisory to a co-management role, building with respect to Indigenous rights and consultation, and minimizing the impact of the pipeline.

Crey said the committee was “very satisfied” with Trudeau’s responses. He said they stressed the importance of taking the IAMC from an advisory to a co-management role and that Trudeau’s response was reassuring.

“We were able to put across to him that that’s the direction we want to take things in. It was complementary to what the government has already said they’re prepared to do,” Crey said. “He was basically saying, that’s the direction we’re going in. There’s work to be done and we understand that.”

As for any promises, Crey said Trudeau’s response was that “his government is committed to continue to work with them.”
“Everyone was happy with that,” Crey said.

Squamish Nation sits determined
The Squamish Nation didn’t hide their contempt after news of the buyout, issuing a scalding May 29 news release saying the Prime Minister betrayed the Indigenous people.

The nation had recently suffered a defeat as their case dismissed was by the B.C. Supreme Court, where the judge found pipeline consultation with the nation to be sufficient.

Their mindset toward the pipeline has not changed since the ruling, stating they are “appalled” by the purchase.

“This is a continued betrayal of promises made to us by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He told Canada’s Indigenous people that our Rights would be respected and upheld. He has broken that promise. He promised us he would put the pipeline expansion through a brand new review. He has broken that promise as well,” said Khelsilem, their elected councilor and spokesperson, in the press release.

Their statement goes on to proclaim that the Prime Minister’s move now forces all Canadians to take on the “risky” project as taxpayer dollars are funding the pipeline.

Khelsilem said further in the statement that “the Squamish Nation will continue to fight to protect our inlet, our communities and our economy … We have a Right to practice our culture, our way of life, and to continue our Right to self-determination in our territories. This is a Right that we have never surrendered, and it is a Right we will continue to defend.”

They state a bitumen marine spill would be “catastrophic” and a reminder that tankers pass by three Squamish Nation communities on the Burrard Inlet.

The new parallel pipeline will run alongside the existing 65-year-old pipe, increasing bitumen (unrefined oil), to 890,000 from 300,000 barrels per day, nearly tripling capacity. The Burnaby export terminal, in Tsleil-Waututh’s traditional territory, will see an increase of tankers to 34 from five, every month.

Simplifying the conversation
Chief Michael LeBourdais of the Whispering Pines Clinton Indian Band never had a problem with the pipeline. What bothered him was the jurisdiction. He said when Ian Anderson, President of Kinder Morgan Canada, initially came to Whispering Pines, it began as a fight. He said they fought for five years, from 2007 to 2012, over taxes and jurisdictions.

Once they finished negotiating the deal wherein Kinder Morgan would pay taxes and respect their environmental jurisdiction, he was okay with it.

“We were never opposed to any pipe or any project in our territory,” he said. “A good percentage of my population, including myself, have worked in the oil patch so we understand the safety protocols, safety redundancy, and oil spill response when it comes to oil pipes and drill sites.”

And they are fine with the government purchasing the pipeline, he said, and that ha actually simplified the conversation.

“We already know them, they know us,” LeBourdais said. “Sometimes you need the federal government to step in to get through a rough patch.”

He said this can also be a good start for reconciliation. “Reconciliation is a huge, huge undertaking by the federal government. This can be a part of it,” LeBourdais said. There are only probably 50 bands affected by this project and we have over 600 in Canada. So this is a good start on how to work and get along with those communities.”

One thing all First Nations have in common, he said, is a desire for jurisdiction. “We all want tax money and all want environmental oversight. I want to get along, share in the resources, and share in the wealth of the community. We want our fair share,” LeBourdais said.

He said he doesn’t understand the demonization of the pipeline. LeBourdais said the responsibility lies with operators, captains, and tug boats for example, and not to use the pipeline as a catch-all.

“That’s the message we’re trying to get out to Canadians who oppose the pipeline in general. To demonize oil is crazy – it’s just a resource and it’s one that Canada has in abundance,” LeBourdais said.

Who Is Responsible for Cleaning up Oil Spills on Canada’s West Coast

Cleaning up oil spills

By Kevin Gardner,
President of Western Canadian Marine Response Corp.

Western Canada Marine Response Corp. (WCMRC) is the only Transport Canada-certified marine spill response organization on Canada’s West Coast. Our job under the Canada Shipping Act is to be prepared to respond to marine spills along all 27,000 km of B.C.’s coastline, and to mitigate impacts when a spill occurs. This includes the protection of wildlife, economic, cultural and environmental sensitivities. On average, we respond to 20 spills each year.
In Canada, marine spill response falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Transport Canada oversees the regime, setting the regulatory structure, managing the certification program for response organizations, and enforcing standards and legislation. Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans ensure the science supporting the regime reflects the realities of the products traveling over our land and through our waters.
WCMRC maintains the infrastructure, equipment, bases, personnel and management resources to protect coastal B.C. from oil spills. Our team regularly tests and implements new equipment and technologies. This includes training in advanced recovery techniques, commissioning purpose-built vessels and field-testing new equipment, such as high-capacity skimmers, advanced sweep systems, infrared cameras and aerostat surveillance balloons.

Who pays for spill response?
The Canadian spill response regime was created in 1995 to enable the shipping and oil industries to respond to their own oil spills. Built on the polluter-pays principle, the regime is based on a partnership between the federal government and industry. The government provides the legislative and regulatory structure and oversees industry’s preparedness and response activities. As the creator of the risk, the shipping and oil industries bear the responsibility to respond to a spill and are always liable for spill response costs.
WCMRC has over 2,300 members who, under the Canada Shipping Act, are required to have an arrangement with a certified response organization. Members are required to pay an annual preparedness fee to ensure they will receive WCMRC’s response services, including equipment and supplies, in the event they pollute.

How are we preparing for an increase in tanker traffic?
With the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion scheduled to begin operations in 2020, WCMRC is implementing a $150 million enhancement program. These enhancements will cut response times in half, double the existing federal planning standards, and significantly increase response capabilities along B.C.’s South Coast through investment in new equipment and response bases.
The enhancements include the creation of six new response bases along our shipping lanes, doubling WCMRC’s fleet to more than 80 vessels, and adding more than 120 personnel to response crews. These dedicated resources will be staged at strategic coastal locations in the Salish Sea, and will be available to the entire marine community—not only to tankers calling on the Trans Mountain terminal.

Can response organizations clean-up diluted bitumen?
If a diluted bitumen spill happens on Canada’s West Coast, is it possible to clean it up? Yes, it is. We know that because we have already successfully responded to a diluted bitumen spill in these waters. It’s what we continue to train and prepare for every day.
In 2007, WCMRC was activated to respond to an oil spill in Burrard Inlet after a backhoe ruptured a pipeline beneath Barnet Highway in Burnaby. The pipeline rupture primarily released oil on-land, but approximately 100,000 litres of diluted bitumen drained into a network of storm drains that empty into the Inlet. The incident was the largest spill WCMRC has cleaned up on Canada’s West Coast—it was a diluted bitumen spill and 95 per cent of the product was recovered.
Diluted bitumen density is lighter than the density of seawater, similar to most other medium to heavy crude oils. This means diluted bitumen floats when spilled in the ocean. This was our experience during the Burnaby spill and has also been confirmed in numerous tests, including a 2016 Natural Resources Canada study which concluded diluted bitumen would float in sea water for up to three or four weeks, even in rough conditions.

Plan Today. Prepare for Tomorrow.
The singular tenet of spill response across the globe is to mitigate the damage to the environment by ensuring a swift and effective cleanup operation that removes the oil as quickly as possible. Responders employ a variety of detection and recovery systems to protect sensitive areas and shorelines, clean up the product, and protect people and wildlife from harm.
There hasn’t been a single spill incident involving a tanker on Canada’s West Coast in the 40-plus years WCMRC has been operating here. And while every oil spill is different, what never changes is the dedication to preparedness by response organizations, governments, First Nations and communities. In Canada we are committed to ensuring the highest standards of marine response are employed in every operation undertaken. Research has reinforced WCMRC’s experience and our existing strategies and tactics to protect Canada’s West Coast and the people and wildlife that live here. If oil spills again, we are prepared.

marine-spill-response

Native Heroes Defend Mother Earth

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

One of the most magnificent creations of Mother Earth, the Endangered California Condor, soarsabove great gorges like the Grand Canyon. Its survival in part is because of the dedicated, spiritually based activism of a powerful Seneca elder, Robertjohn.

Knapp has been involved in sacred ceremonies that honour creation. These have been performed at release sites for the return of the world’s champion glider, the California Condor. Following Robertjohn’s prayers and sacred songs the Condors are released from cages to soar over spectacular great canyons and mesas.

The California Condor’s ability to survive has emerged as one of the most remarkable tests of the purity of the environment. It cannot persist in a landscape that has become a dump.

The leading source of Condor mortality is the tragedy of parents feeding trash to their young while still in their nests. The state of California recently took a major step forward for survival of this relic of the vanished Pleistocene epoch, by banning lead bullets.

Robertjohn took action to have poisons such as antifreeze removed from the Condor’s sacred habitats. His concern for natural purity alerted Danny Beaton, a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, to team up with him at a period of crisis.

The great crisis faced by Beaton was in Simcoe County, posed by a proposed waste area, Dump Site 41. Beaton secured Robertjohn’s participation in a press Conference at Queen’s Park when this dump proposal threatened the world’s purest water.

The world’s purest water resides in rocks deep in the earth in a formation known as the Alliston Aquifer. Robertjohn took Beaton’s call to speak to power to alert the Ontario media to threats to the world’s purest water.

Before Robertjohn spoke the threat to the Alliston Aquifer was a cause that would not catch on. It obscurity endured despite all Beaton’s determined efforts to bring it to the public’s attention.

Before Robertjohn spoke Beaton and his partner Alicja Rozanska had organized a week long march from the Dump 41 site to Queen’s Park. He had only succeeded in getting publicity on the evening news of the CBC Ontario French language station.

Danny Beaton’s media work on the line against the would be dump builders had been effective. Public opinion became outraged when the police breakup of the blockade and subsequent excavation caused sediment to appear in what had been the world’s purest water. When the contamination was exposed councillors became deluged by outraged phone calls. Immediately what cynics had excused as a “done deal” soon fell apart.

Beaton’s work with protecting the Alliston Aquifer with Robertjohn roughly paralleled his achievements in safeguarding the Niagara Escarpment. Again here he worked with native elders having a deep spiritual bond with Mother Earth. Here Beaton was helped by a collaboration with an Onondaga Chief, Arnie General, a sacred healer with the False Face Society. General and other Confederacy elders such as Lehman Gibson and Harvey Longboat, connected Beaton to the earth respecting values of his own culture, expressed in the ways of the Longhouse faith.

The Niagara Escarpment was Threatened by two expressways termed the NGTA East and West corridors. They would have cut across its old growth forests and caves which provide habitat for Endangered species, such as bats. At very sacred location Mount Nemo migrating birds gather to benefit from the great thermals that assist their glides across Lake Ontario. Here soar spectacular flocks of Turkey Vultures, Canada’s smaller version of the mighty Condor.

Business lobbyists for the expressway lobbies were having a major influenced in the Ontario government to justify the slashing of the Escarpment. Their message was arrogantly announced in the Onondaga Longhouse the capital for the world’s longest function government, the Iroquois Confederacy. This was that they were the official representatives of the Ministry of Transportation, whose acronym was MTO.

Hearing the words MTO, General saw a great opportunity to knock out environmental destruction with well aimed ridicule. He said that in reality the representatives of the colonial government were not concerned with mere transportation. What the acronym represented in reality was a “Major Take Over.” The Confederacy broke up in laughter, the expressways were cancelled, and the Niagara Escarpment saved.

Another amazing achievement of Beaton was to publicize the work of the remarkable Haida spiritual leader, Guugaaw. Beaton brought Gugaw to Toronto for a great gathering the Project Indigenous Restoration. It was held at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall.

Guujaaw at Project Indigenous connected what means to be a Haida to the wonders of the earth where the nation lives, Haida Gwaii. (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands). He has said that if its wonders of nature cease, such as the magnificence of towering old growth forests, the Haida nation would be no more. This has become recognized in the Haida’s national vision. It states that maintaining the “environmental integrity” of Hadia Gwai is essential to the Haida’s “cultural survival.”

Critical to the cultural survival of the Haida under Guujaaw’s leadership has been the protection of its remarkable stands of cedar, hemlock and Sitka spruce. The first step in this strategy of protection of the land and Haida identity was securing the southern third of the nation’s traditional territory in Gwaii Hannas National Park. Here Haida are permitted to gather medicinal plants and harvest trees for ceremonial purposes, such as the construction of sacred Longhouses and totem poles. The Haida manage the Gwaii Hannas National Park through the remarkable network of Haida Watchmen. They protect the park from illegal plunder and waste dumping, They also tell the great story of Haida culture to visitors.

Under Guujaaw’s leadership the Haida have also been stopped clear cut pillaging in logging operations. Logging now takes place with the consultation of the Haida nation. The lower volume of logging now seeks to be geared to higher value products such as musical instruments. The Haida have also increased protection for wildlife, most notably eliminating all bear hunting in their traditional territories. The Haida have also protected their ocean waters from nonrenewable resource extraction, most notably oil drilling.

Beaton also worked successfully to share the message of Sarah James a representative of the Alaskan Gwich’in people who has struggled successfully to prevent oil exploration on the ecologically sensitve calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. The nation has been able to keep industrial extraction out of the herd’s 250,000 square kilometre habitat in Alaska and the Yukon. Their voice in bi-national co-management efforts has strictly limited hunting to four per cent of the herd. Consequently the herd has been able to maintain a stable size of around 200,000 animals. This success is in vivid contrast to most caribou herds on Turtle Island. In most of our continent petroleum extraction, hydro development and logging has caused caribou numbers to crash by ninety per cent.

The earth revering wisdom of Sarah James is in vivid contrast to the manipulative cunning of two native politicians whom Beaton worked with in the past before they betrayed his earth protecting message. One of the areas where caribou numbers have crashed is the vast Ungava peninsula. It is divided between Quebec and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Ungava is the traditional territory of the Cree and Innu people. In Ungava caribou numbers have been devastated by roads, hydro dams, clear cutting and open pit mines.

In the past Beaton worked closely with Cree leaders Matthew Coon Come and Innu Chief Peter Penashue to protect the wilds of Ungava. He later split with them when they embraced logging, mining and hydro development projects. Penashue later served in the cabinet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which introduced changes to the Indian Act (still in effect), which made it easier to cede band lands.

Beaton played an important role in the defeat of Coon Come from his previous position as Assembly of First Nations.(AFN), Grand Chief. This followed Coon Come’s “Peace of the Braves”. In this cowardly pact Coon Come endorsed hydro dams along the Rupert River, and stopped litigation against clear cutting. At the very meeting that Coon Come was seeking reelection as AFN Chief, First Nations Drum circulated an article Beaton and I wrote exposing Coon Come’s embrace of the pillage of resource extraction and dams.

It is revealing of what Iroquois elders tell about The Good Mind that Beaton has upheld the values of the ancient league of peace. His work with native elders who champion the protection of Mother Earth in the content of nature respecting traditional wisdom gives hope. Often the defence of traditional earth respecting cultures as a strategy for eco-justice is ignored. Many are lulled into ignoring reality, or are trapped in sensationalist, ultimately nihilistic tactics of rock throwing.

Beaton’s work with elders who guard ancient traditions was well summed up by his friend Arnie General in a revealing tribute to his colleague the Cayuga earth protector Norm Jacobs. He said that Norm will be “mourned by many, but not by all.” The many are those who appreciate the wonders of the natural world around us. The minority are the tiny one per cent who profit and gloat over their destruction. Beaton’s life shows how with native elders who seek to protect the ecological integrity of their nations ancient territories provides an opportunity to stop their schemes of destruction.

 

For Danny Beaton, Greenbelt Celebrates Mother Earth

Harold and Ann Boker and Danny in Art Parnel Clover Field Simcoe County Photo Courtesy of J.E.Simpson, 2009

Harold and Ann Boker and Danny in Art Parnel Clover Field Simcoe County Photo Courtesy of J.E.Simpson, 2009

Now in a ponderous and tentative way the Ontario government is engaged in a consultation to expand the Greenbelt into the sacred heartland of Huronania. It is the core of the civilization that produced the prophetic figure, the Peacemaker.

Technocratic words about wetlands, cold temperature water, moraines, acquifers, base flow and the key indicator species, the Brook Trout are the language of the long overdue excercise to expand the Greenbelt. They have little resonance however, compared to those expressed by Danny Beaton’s, passion for Mother Earth.

In contrast to official jargon, Beaton explains that, “under the Nanfan Treaty the Mohawk nation has the Right to water and wood from Six Nations to Georgian Bay as long as the grass grows and the sun shines…therefore as a Mohawk man I have a right to protect our sacred waters, sacred farm land and our spiritual animals.”

Beaton, a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, took his great stand in the defence of Mother Earth in the campaign to defend the world’s purest source of drinking water. It was located near Elmvale, where the greatest setttlement of the people of the Peacemaker was located.

Beaton has termed The Peacemaker’s World, “The Healing Place.” He finds its “probably one of the most beautiful places that I have been to in my entire life. The waters are everywhere. The forests are everywhere. We pick the
berries.” Here he eats the fish and gathers cedar on a regular basis.

There was a 22 year struggle that sought to protect the world’s cleanest water from becoming a garbage Dump. It was called based on an engineering report, Dump Site 41. Beaton played a major role in stopping the dump from receiving garbage.

Beaton first organized an eight day walk from where Dump Site 41 would be built to Queen’s Park. It was called The Walk for Water. He saw the treck as bringing “attention to the Sacred Waters of the Alliston Aquifer and the tributaries that run into Georgian Bay.”

Following the Walk Water Beaton organized an occupation of the site. It blockaded excavation machines from digging up the Sacred Mother Earth of the Peacemaker’s World.

What made Beaton’s passion so powerful is that he knew how to be arrested with dignity and power. It was a majestic dignity that the Peacemaker’s words of “Peace, Power and Righteousness” resounded from the ancient times from of his ancestors.

Beaton was arrested on the blockade line by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers. At the time of his arrest he was submitting his photographs of the struggle to First Nations Drum and News From Indian Country. At the time he was using an upright log for his desk and sitting on a lawn chair. After being put into handcuffs he was taken to the OPP Midland Detachment Center.

Beaton distinguished himself by refusing to sign a release form. By doing so he would have pledged never to enter the dump site again. He later explained how, “I felt some one had to show the world that this was all crazy”.

Beaton told the Justice of the Peace at his trial that “somebody had to stop the rape of Mother Earth.” At this point, he later recalled, “I felt like crying because of all the chaos that was happening but no justice for Mother Earth.”

In refusing to sign the form Beaton’s words were simple but eloquent. He told reporters, “Who Will Speak to the Water.” These were his last words to the press before spending three days in prison, before his bail hearing.

Beaton’s words of the need to speak for the water came at the right time to stop Dump Site 41. This is because when he went to prison the nonviolent struggle of peaceful resistance to save the world’s purest water had taken on the form of a great scientific experiment. It exposed the lies of the engineering professionals that had been used to deceive the voting public of Simcoe County.

When the resisters held the line against the bulldozers the water that flowed out of the Dump Site 41 site remained pure. As soon as the blockade was breached by the force of the OPP the water that flowed out became dirty.

The stain on the water became a dirty mark upon the politicians who backed Dump Site 41. If so much damage could be caused by simply digging a pit, what people reasoned, would be caused by dumping garbage into it?

During Beaton’s three days in prison, where his biggest complaint was the impurity of the water, an outraged public opinion caused everything to change. Incensed citizens mobilized and phoned their councilors, denouncing them for believing the lies of the engineers.

When Beaton arrived in the Barrie Simcoe County court house, everything had changed. He was released in the knowledge that work on Dump Site 41 had been halted.

The excavations were healed by restorative work. Eventually easements were put on the land by the Ontario Farmland Trust, to ensure that this prime Class One soil would remain in agricultural use forever.

Beaton a few years later came to the rescue to another threat to the cold pure waters that feed the cold water trout streams that flow into lower Georgian Bay. This new threat was termed the Dufferin County mega quarry.

Danny at surface springs in Tiny Township courtesy of Sharon Weatherall, May 2009

Danny at surface springs in Tiny Township courtesy of Sharon Weatherall, May 2009

Much like Dump Site 41 before Beaton’s involvement, opponents of a mega mile quarry on Canada’s best potato growing land had been getting nowhere. Farm houses and buildings were burned down. Their debris clogged local dumps. Forests were clear cut in violation of tree protection by laws. Fence rows were ripped up.

Beaton met with the organizers of opposition in a corporate law office on Bay Street. He told them, literally, to “Take a Hike.”

By suggesting they take a hike Beaton meant they should follow the example the stopped Dump Site 41. He called for a procession from Queen’s Park, the seat of political power which could kill the Mega Quarry, to the site of the proposed giant pit. The march was held and captured the publics imagination. This sparked by death of the scheme through the unusual imposition of an Environmental Assessment.

After the end of the five day trek Beaton and I were led by one of the organizers Smiling Yogi to a place where he promised we would appreciated what the hike was all about. He took us to one of the magnificent cold water streams of Huronia.

Yogi took us to a White Cedar Brook Trout stream which is an important tributary for the cold water Nottawasaga River flowing into Georgian Bay. Here Brook Trout leaped through its sparkling fast running waters, laced with riffles,
runs and pools. It was lined with verdant green watercress.

Beaton is now focused on protecting the Nottawasaga River and the Minesing Wetlands from the polluted storm water that is set to flow from urban expansion in Midhurst. His passion for Mother Earth gives substance to the call of the public consultation document for the expansion of the Greenbelt in Huronia called appropriately, “Protecting Water.” The document exposes how urban sprawl is a threat to the wetlands and trout streams that nourish Georgian Bay. But he expresses it was t through the wisdom of native people who see sacred waters as Mother Earth’s blood.

Chiefs Council Launches GoFundMe Campaign to Quash Oil Tanker Moratorium Act and Great Bear Rainforest


LAX KW’ALAAMS, BC, January 24, 2018 – The Chiefs Council represents over 30 communities engaged in the First Nations-led Eagle Spirit energy corridor proposed from Bruderheim, Alberta to tidewater in northern British Columbia. Its members have unextinguished Aboriginal rights and title from time immemorial and continuing into the present, or have treaties over the land and ocean of their traditional territories. Having protected the environment as first-stewards of their traditional territories for millennia, the Chief’s Council is vehemently opposed to American ENGOs dictating government policy in their traditional territories—particularly the illegal imposition of the Great Bear Rainforest and the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act proposed by the liberal government.

Today the Chiefs Council wishes to announce that it has set up a GoFundMe page to assist with legal and administrative costs needed to quash the Government’s unilaterally imposed Oil Tanker Moratorium Act and the Great Bear Rainforest—both of which were established largely through the lobbying of foreign-financed ENGOs and without the consultation and consent of First Nations as required by the Constitution. We have and will always, put the protection of the environment first, but this must be holistically balanced with social welfare, employment, and business opportunities. These government actions harm our communities denying our leaders the opportunity to create a brighter future for their members.

The Chiefs Council understood that liberal government was supposed to be supporting reconciliation–not perpetuating past failed colonial policies designed subjugate and marginalize indigenous peoples. It is a sad comment that this action is required to taken by Canada’s poorest people against a federal justice department with an indigenous minister. When the federal government possesses unlimited financial resources, such heavy-handed unilateral action clearly is not consistent with the Crown’s fiduciary duty to Aboriginal peoples.

Powering Reconciliation – Indigenous Participation in Clean Energy


 
In a first of its kind report, Lumos Clean Energy Advisors released the results of a national survey of clean energy projects with Indigenous participation. The findings are impressive to say the least.

Indigenous participation in Canada’s burgeoning clean energy economy has risen rapidly over the past two decades, especially the last 10 years. There was a dramatic rise from 26 projects in operation in 2008 to the 152 projects that generate energy today.

These are only medium-large projects (over 1MW in size). There are another 1,200 small projects in Indigenous communities across Canada.

These projects represent nearly one fifth of Canada’s overall electricity production infrastructure. Enough to power 7.5-9.5 million homes.

Communities were involved in these projects as owners or partners, or had Impact Benefit Agreements, lease agreements, revenue sharing agreements, etc., with project developers.

Participation in these projects has had significant employment, economic, and social benefits for communities involved.

Building these projects created an estimated 15,300 person-years of jobs for Indigenous community members. This translates into roughly $842 million in employment income. These jobs come in the form of direct employment such as: construction workers (ex. heavy equipment operators, iron workers, electricians), environmental monitors, site security, etc. They also include spin-off opportunities like catering, camp services, and more.

While some of the jobs are limited to the construction the projects, the experience gained by community members has allowed them to find employment on other projects in their regions. Beyond this, nearly 300 individuals, now have long term careers operating and maintaining the projects.

The investments and agreements made by communities are now yielding huge returns. After paying off any debt requirements, these projects are earning a total net returns of about $167 million per year. Over the next fifteen years it’s expected that total profits will be around $2.5 billion.

This revenue and the employment from the projects, has helped create more self-reliance in communities. They create own-source funds to use towards education, healthcare, elder facilities, and other pressing needs. As Chief Jim Leonard of Rainy River First Nation says: “Solar is powering a more socially and economically stable future for our people.” Rainy River wholly owns a 25 MW solar farm just outside of Thunder Bay.

These outcomes only start to hint at the importance of the findings of the survey: That these projects represent powerful, tangible steps on the path to reconciliation.

Project partnerships often represent a recognition and respect for Indigenous rights and territory. With the active involvement of Indigenous communities, traditional knowledge and values become engrained in the project’s design and implementation – helping to minimize environmental impact. And respect-oriented relationships can strengthen the economic basis for healthy communities, long term prosperity, and sustainable livelihoods.

But this good news story is not over yet. Over the next 30 years, Canada will be going through a significant transition as it moves towards a low-carbon future. This will open vast new opportunities for new renewable energy projects but also other areas of the clean energy economy like electric vehicles, smart grids, and more.

It’s important that we build on the success we’ve seen here with these 152 projects. Collaboration and shared learning is needed to ensure the clean energy future also continues down the path of reconciliation. Indigenous rights, values, and leadership must continue to be integrated as the sector expands.

To help make this happen, we’re working with a range of partners on initiatives such as the 20/20 Catalysts Program and the Indigenous Clean Energy Network, to foster Indigenous leadership and promote collaboration between all those involved in the sector.
Read the full report on:
indigenouscleanenergy.com