Representatives from major oilsands companies visited Treaty 8 Treaty Days to have a first-hand look at the traditions of the people their industry relies on.
Total E&P, Husky, Syncrude, Imperial Oil, Williams Energy, BP and Suncor representatives were ushered from the airport to introduce themselves to the chiefs and the people of Fort Chipewyan.
The chiefs took time to thank the companies for bringing economy and prosperity to their territories, but quickly changed the subject to what they were not doing for communities – Fort Chipewyan first and foremost.
“I stand here and look at you, and all I see is dollar signs,” said Mikisew Cree Chief Steve Courtereille. “Why is it that with all of the billions of dollars that come out of this community, we don’t see a drop in our pocket? We need seniors’ community housing, we have elders that are forced to stay in High Level and Fort McMurray and want nothing more than to come home.”
The oilsands representatives were not given an opportunity to respond publicly, as each of the chiefs took a turn congratulating and criticising them.
“Take a look at your profits, and take a look at us and see how poor we are,” said Victor Horseman, Grand Chief Liason for Treaty 8 First Nations Alberta. “We are the center of all of the profits that drive the Alberta economy, the national economy. So why do we always get the shit end of the stick?”
The industry representatives were then given a chance to engage the chiefs one-on-one during a mingling session before being sent on a tour of Fort Chipewyan.
One industry representative, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Journal that it was like they had walked in front of a firing squad. But he said the chiefs are the ones who hold the reins and the companies have to respect that.