The Impact Of Tar Sands Exploitation On Indigenous Culture In Northern Alberta

A lament by the Indigenous people of Northern Alberta where industry and development has taken priority over the land and the ways of the people.

Victims of a cultural genocide and failed by the constitution, they are saddened. “The wildlife has all gone. All gone to Hell” says Andrew Bouchier of Fort McKay. “You can’t even drink the water round here anymore”

Hunting, fishing and gathering has all but disappeared. Industry pays good money, yes, but where will this leave the children and grandchildren?

The love of money just accelerates the breakdown of societies.

“The Treaty says as long as the sun shines, the river flows and the grass grows, we will be protected. But the sun doesn’t shine, the grass is dead and the rivers are being sucked dry”

2 thoughts on “The Impact Of Tar Sands Exploitation On Indigenous Culture In Northern Alberta”

  1. Paul,

    I have practiced bushcraft since I was a boy and have taught it as a Scout Leader with Scouts Canada for over 20 years. Having recently found your presence through your website and YouTube video’s, I have found your content to be thoughtful, well presented and informative. Some of the best I have seen.

    However, I am disappointed with your inclusion of the video regarding the impact of the oil sands of Alberta on the First Nations communities.

    I grew up with many members of the First Nation’s communities as neighbors and friends. I have hunted and fished with them on BC’s coast, and worked with them in Alberta’s northern communities. My wife is Mi’kmaq from Canada’s East Coast.

    The legacies of past colonialism have damaged Indigenous peoples in every corner of our world. In Canada there are many wrongs that still need to be righted. But in our current world, the various levels of government in Canada make every effort to ensure the First Nations peoples are respected. Even the private sector has learned that it is beneficial to work with the First Nations communities. Suncor Energy (Canada’s largest energy company and who has been operating in Alberta’s oil sands since 1962) has First Nations representation on their Board of Directors.

    The First Nations communities of northern Alberta are consulted with regarding projects in the region, and where their Traditional Lands might be affected, their permission is required. Partnerships between industry and the Indigenous community have been formed, and support has been provided for them to maintain their culture and stewardship of the land in the face of urbanisation. There are some disaffected individuals who will speak to the media with stories of hardship and blight, but you will notice that they do not speak on behalf of their community, just themselves.

    You would no more want to drink the water in an oil sands excavation than you would in a coal mine in Wales. But the countryside of Wales is still beautiful, as is the countryside of northern Alberta. I have hunted and fished (with First Nations) in northern Alberta and I have drank the water. The game is plentiful and the water is clear and pristine.

    The representation that the Alberta Oil Sands is having a negative impact on First Nations culture and their environment is bogus. The challenges they actually face is the urbanisation of their communities, as it affects Indigenous communities across Canada and the world. If the actual goal is to reduce the pollution in this world, then the manipulation of the Indigenous peoples as media pawns should stop, and the focus should be on reducing consumption of the end product. When there is less demand for a resource, higher cost projects (e.g. Alberta Oil Sands) will cease to be viable and consequently cease to exist.

    I keenly look forward to future content on this website continue, and hope it will be less politically biased and more factually accurate.

    Come visit the Canadian Rockies sometime, I would love to show you around.

    Kindest regards,
    Don Witmer
    Calgary, Alberta

    P.S. What is mined in Alberta is not “Tar”, it is bitumen or heavy oil mixed with sand, hence “Oil Sands”. Tar was historically derived in Europe from the Pine tree.

    1. Hi Don, thanks for your detailed comments on this film. You’ve definitely added extra context to the subject.

      It’s always difficult when you are curating content. It’s certainly not possible to show every side of a story with each piece of content.

      If you look at the profile of this film and the maker on Vimeo, his work definitely has an environmental bent and I would suspect he is opposed to the oil sands extraction and processing on principle.

      So, yes you raise a valid concern that the film-maker is exploiting the people he highlights in order to further his agenda.

      Would love to take you up on the offer of a visit. It’s a long time since I’ve been to the Rockies.

      Respectfully yours,


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