Walking together: The importance of connection

Six learnings from the Indigenous Leadership and CER meetings

February 5, 2024

Photo: View of tipis against the backdrop of a sunrise.Photo: View of tipis against the backdrop of a sunrise. 

Over the past year, leaders from Indigenous communities potentially affected by the Nova Gas Transmission Limited (NGTL) system and the CER embarked on a shared journey. We listened to Indigenous leaders share their experiences with resource development on ancestral lands and traditional territories.

The purpose of these meetings was to:

  • establish and strengthen relationships
  • better understand the perspectives and experiences Indigenous Peoples had with the NGTL system and resource development
  • find out if communities wanted to work together to strengthen pipeline oversight.

Indigenous leaders expressed a strong desire to actively participate in regulating projects. They provided heartfelt examples of companies using the land with little socio-economic benefit to their communities.

We learned from leaders of diverse communities who shared their beliefs, values, traditional knowledge and teachings, a fundamental lesson became clear. Indigenous People have a profound connection with their environment and see interconnection in all living things.

Chief Jim O’Chiese of the Foothills Ojibway Society underscored the sacredness of areas in Western Canada to Indigenous Peoples, emphasizing the responsibility to protect and preserve the land for future generations. He shared a teaching about Cypress Hills, explaining its special importance as the place where God took the soil to create the people of Turtle Island.

Recently, Indigenous co-writers and CER staff concluded a report summarizing what was discussed at the meetings. The report captures major themes and a comprehensive summary of comments from participants in the meeting.

Indigenous leaders and writers emphasized the importance of grounding our work in the lived experience and worldview of Indigenous Peoples. Stories of connection, spiritual ties to Mother Earth, and a sense of responsibility to protect and preserve the land for future generations have woven a rich tapestry that transcends regulatory perspectives.

“Our power, spirit – we think about our children, our grandchildren.
We know there is something wrong with Mother Earth.
We know it. We feel it.
We have that intuitive instinct to look after her and be protectors.”

– Indigenous Co-Writing Committee

While it is challenging to translate the experience of the spoken word, we hope the report not only captures the major themes discussed but also conveys the emotion and spirit with which they were shared.

One of the participants, Elder eannette Starlight from Tsuut’ina Nation, shares a few words of wisdom about the importance of the leadership meetings and the co-writing process and what it means for continued Reconciliation.


*Remarks in Tsuut’ina*

I ask for understanding, commitment and prayer to work with the land, the energies that were created with this land, for this land and everything that falls within.

I thank Creator for the beauty of all his creations, the ancestors that left us these beautiful lands to live on, to survive, to hold on to the energy that surrounds all these things. They are all a part of us and we have to really look at it, take it to our heart, keep it there, and always remember all the different things that come with it.

The mountains, the waters, the rocks, the animals, the birds, everything Creators created for us.
*Remarks in Tsuut’ina*
I'm honored to be in your circle. This is a very important day for me. I woke up happy, excited, and a lot of energy has been flowing through me since I walked into this museum.

It's because there are changes, lots of changes that are going to be happening here. And I have to keep my own energy contained so that it won't fly out. I expand or extend or over use my energy. I have to contain it. To be asked to do this work with people about energy regulators, you know, it's really important to look at those words. To regulate the energy within the lands, the air, fire, mountains, water, everything.

How can we really regulate all of these things within the scope of all of these things? Creator has a hold of it, and he's the one that helps to regulate all of this. That's my belief, my understanding of all of these things. My granny and I used to always say, Be careful of everything. You have to be careful because what you hold here, what has to be held here. We have to make sure that everything is included within.

With that, I really feel that these things, the words that are written on paper, and I've said it before, it has to jump out of the paper off the page. So that all nations can understand where the energetic work and the Indigenous lenses have to come together and really make people understand. Other nations have their own concepts, ideas, prayers, understanding of all the work that they also do within the scope of this energy work that they do with the lands.

That's my understanding. We all have our own ways. We all have to collaborate and put everything, the good energy back into this land and everything that use the elements of this, this land. I'm honored to be here. That's my understanding of everything, the words that are written down. It's for future generations and we got to keep it going.

We don't know what tomorrow is going to hold. So those words have to be powerful, very powerful and understood by the future generations. We have to make it so that they look at these words and they understand exactly what all the chiefs, all the First Nations, everyone, all the Indigenous People have said before today, and hopefully it resonates to tomorrow.

*Remarks in Tsuut’ina*

You know, like I'm always talking about energy and the energy that they did put into this work to make sure that the words really reflect their leaders’ words. They have to they had to really sit with it and really put a lot of thought and their emotion, their energy, everything into this work so that the words will flow for the betterment of all the work that these people that the nations, Metis have all been saying.

So the words have to be combined in order for it to resonate through the nations and to the future. So these writers did a lot of this work in order for these words to be put on paper properly. I acknowledge the emotion and the energy that they had to put into it, and now they have to turn around as soon as it's complete and approved and sent out, published.

I pray that these people take all their emotion and energy back so that they themselves would be complete again, because they did this work for years. Now they have to come back, release it to where it's meant to be and come back and be whole again. That's what I pray and hope and wish for all the people that this that this hard work and their words are going to be repeated over and over through generations.

The only thing I'm going to end with is when completion, I would like them each to go out and put tobacco down and thank the elements for everything that they came across or understood it to be and give it back. They have to send it back. That's part of trying to be yourself again. So this is what they have to do.

They have to send everything that they can keep it. They can claim it as their own for the if they go to the river. If they go to the mountains. Real clean, clean place. Just pray and thank it and give it back.

Highlights from the full report include:

  1. Indigenous rights, recognition and reconciliation
    • Emphasis on inherent, Treaty, and Constitutional rights.
    • Recognition of diverse Indigenous histories, cultures, and languages.
    • Calls for honoring Peace and Friendship Treaties through mutual consent.
    • Indigenous sovereignty
  2. Indigenous way of life and connection to the Land:
    • Guiding principles based on the 7 Sacred Teachings.
    • Collective responsibility to preserve the environment for future generations.
    • Acknowledgment of the spiritual connection of Indigenous Peoples to the Land.
  3. Cumulative effects and climate change:
    • Recognition of impacts on Indigenous rights from natural resource development.
    • Disparate socio-economic impacts, especially on vulnerable communities.
    • Impacts especially to Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S) and vulnerable communities
  4. Economic benefits
    • Need for regulatory oversight to ensure economic commitments are being followed.
    • Setting clear expectations for the percentage of contracts allocated to Indigenous businesses.
    • Inclusion of direct awards and opportunities for Indigenous-owned businesses, prioritizing them over joint ventures.
  5. Collaboration and co-development:
    • Reconciliation is defined as acknowledging past harms and taking tangible actions.
    • Co-development based on values of authenticity, respect, and transparency.
    • Imperative to decolonize processes hindering Indigenous participation.
    • Indigenous regulator
  6. Indigenous involvement in oversight:
    • Incorporation of traditional knowledge into monitoring – equal to western knowledge.
    • Long-term commitment and adequate resources for meaningful Indigenous participation.
    • Inclusion of Indigenous knowledge from concept to project completion.

Read the full report

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