Yet, when I read the article, I found that where First Nations embraced the development of such natural resources as oil and gas (never mind forestry, fishing and mining), the reverse was actually the case — which has not always been so.
- First, there were the anti-fur campaigns in the 1970s which eventually destroyed the Native way of life, not only for those who were hunters and trappers, but furriers and retailers as well.
- Then, there was the anti-seal campaigns both off the coast of Newfoundland and throughout Europe.
- Now, there is the 2014 pro-whaling fiasco by the anti-whaling Greenpeace. Known for stopping the whale hunt world-wide, Greenpeace recently supported the killing of a whale by the Clyde River Inuit in Nunavut even though whales are endangered in the Arctic. Given the destruction of the fur and seal trades of the past, I believe this latest turn of face is pure political theatre to try to turn public opinion in Greenpeace’s favour. The problem is that if whales are endangered in the Arctic, pretty soon there won’t be any left to hunt, traditional native values and way of life notwithstanding.
Anyway, the good news is that times are changing because there are forward-looking First Nations Chiefs who know that there can be a balance between care of the environment and providing jobs and wealth.
- As I linked at the start of this post, Chief Jim Boucher of the Fort McKay First Nations in Alberta, recently spoke at an Assembly of First Nations Gathering in Gatineau, Quebec and is quoted as saying that: “His community … has an unemployment rate of zero, an average annual income of $120,000, and financial holdings in excess of $2 billion, thanks to its willingness to do business with Canada’s oil and gas companies.” Not only that, but as a result of this windfall, that band is self-governed, receiving only 4% of its revenue from the Government of Canada.
- A similar good news story was recently heard from First Nation Chief Joe Dion of Frog Lake, Alberta. A quote from a BBC article, also dated December 2016, states that: “[Dion] heads up Frog Lake Energy Resources Corporation, which is wholly owned by the First Nation and manages the on-reserve oil and gas drilling facilities” which has been able to use oil production dividends to build homes, community and senior centres, as well as help fund education programmes.
Thankfully, then, history will not repeating itself if enough First Nations leaders realize that oil and gas and everything connected to those industries, if done right, can benefit their communities.
At the same time, however, caution and awareness is needed because there are still a lot of environmental activist groups that would have First Nations living in poverty, as illogical as that seems. For a full description of who wants to stop anyone from receiving any benefits from oil and gas resource and pipeline development, I would recommend reading a very detailed Vivian Krause October, 2016 article in the Financial Post.
Anyway, let’s look forward with confidence.
The crux of the matter is that First Nation leaders and their communities in both Canada and the U.S. can benefit financially and purposefully from oil and gas extraction and pipeline infrastructure on their traditional lands — with business development and full employment and all the positive outcomes resulting from those activities.