Part1: We are the Fort McKay first nation group. We are located in Alberta, Canada and are a group of aboriginals that live along the Athabasca River. Our first nation’s group is composed of Dene, Cree and Métis members. The history of our people is very special. The rich oral histories of the Cree and Dene people date back to almost 8,000 years ago. Our land along the Athabasca River is home to the many populations of Rainbow Trout, Pike and Whitefish. The land is also home to the fertile banks of berries which attracts a large number of moose.
The Athabasca permitted generations of aboriginals to live off of its resources. We are working alongside the oil sand companies to preserve our land, which hopefully leads to the continuation of our culture. Our main purpose is to undertake the responsibility to provide a healthy lifestyle to our people.
As opposed to what many of you think, we are not completely against the idea of Oil Sand exploitation on our land. We just don’t want it to affect our people. We feel like there needs to be a certain distance of these oil sand companies to our land because we don’t want it to interfere with the harmony of it. Activities practiced by our people should not be bothered, such as hunting, fishing and gathering.
From our perspective, we see ourselves working and dealing with these companies in the future because they could provide us with money. This can heavily increase our standards of living and education. When we first started collaborating with the oil companies in 1986, we agreed on the fact that Moose Lake, which is a very important piece of land to our community, shall not be affected by any means.
Part2: As representatives of The Fort McKay First Nation group, we feel that we conditionally support the development of oil sands on our land. As the Fort McKay first nation group we are very fortunate to work beside these companies and get rewarded. There are going to be so many job opportunities that will open up for our people.
Our second reason for being in favour of this comes from our first reason, generating money. Nearly $100 million dollars is made each year from revenue of the labourers. Unlike other First Nation groups cross Canada, we have better living conditions and with the money from the oil companies, we are able to build institutes such as schools, medical treatment centers and much more. We can send our kids to school so they don’t hang out with the wrong groups and get the hang of doing bad things, such as alcohol and drugs. This is the case in many aboriginal communities today.
According to a recent CCPA study that studied the extent of First Nations poverty in Canada demonstrates how 50% of aboriginal children in Canada are living in poverty. Not all of these nations have the opportunities that we have. According to the Fort McKay Councillor Gerald Gladue “People come to McKay and they say it doesn’t even look like a reserve”. In the past years, Fort McKay has built an indoor hockey arena, and with the help of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, a large daycare. Future building plans include water and sewer upgrades, stone paths and a theater to accommodate 1,800 people.