To learn more about the study please follow the links to the report below.
Over 2020-2021 WSSS had the privilege of assisting Applications Management Consulting Ltd. in completing a Labour Market Study on behalf of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development & Tourism. Through a comprehensive engagement process, that included multiple virtual engagements and a comprehensive employer survey the research team was able to provide a strategic 5 year labour market strategy and action plan. It is our hope that this plan is used by the key stakeholders to meet community needs.
To learn more about the study please follow the links to the report below.
A History of Relations between Wood Buffalo National Park and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation – Report Release
Over the past two years, we have had the privilege of working with members of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) to undertake extensive research into the history of relations between Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) and the Denésuliné residents and land-users who were displaced as a direct result of its creation.
Extensive archival and oral history research conducted for the report reveals that WBNP’s 1922 creation, 1926 expansion, and management throughout the 20th century, eroded Dené rights and sovereignty over a significant portion of their territory and damaged all aspects of the community’s health and well-being, governance, kinship networks, and relations to the land and water. The history of the Park has been widely interpreted by the community as a history of broken Treaty promises and of violations of Dené Treaty and hereditary rights. This story took place within the wider context of violent displacements of Indigenous peoples from their territories across Turtle Island throughout the 20th century. Indeed, protected parks have played a critical role in histories of colonial dispossession, violence and genocide.
For this research, we engaged closely with community members and the project steering committee to gather and expose this history. The research report is built on critical engagement with archival documents from Ottawa, Edmonton and Fort Chipewyan, as well as close readings of dozens of historical interviews conducted with community members from 1970s onward and 29 new interviews with 30 community members. These interviews were recorded from November 2020-May 2021.
Willow Springs is honoured to have worked alongside ACFN on this important project. We are deeply grateful for the countless individuals who generously shared their time, memories, knowledge and expertise to help reconstruct this complex story and understand its ongoing impacts in the community. We hope the report will be a source of ample information for ACFN’s campaign to garner public attention to this history, as well as a national apology and appropriate compensation from the federal government.
Below you will find links to the Executive Summary and the Final Report. As media coverage develops, we will also be posting that below.
ST & PF
ACFN Wood Buffalo Expulsion Website
Other Media Coverage
Kristy Kirkup, "Report details harms to Alberta First Nation for creation of Wood Buffalo National Park," Globe and Mail, July 19, 2021.
Vincent McDermott, "ACFN calls for harvesting rights in Wood Buffalo National Park, apology for mistreatment in park's creation," Fort McMurray Today, July 20, 2021.
Jaryn Vecchio, "Report: Apology, Compensation Needed After ACFN Members Evicted, Separated from Families in Creation of WB National Park," Mix103.7, July 20, 2021.
Jamie Malbeuf, "Report outlines 'violent, fraught' history of Wood Buffalo National Park and impact on First Nation," CBC News, July 22, 2021.
Mike Lapointe, "First Nation seeks apology from feds for displacement, hardships stemming from creation of Wood Buffalo National Park," The Hill Times, August 4, 2021 (Subscription Required, contact WSSS for a copy if you do not subscribe).
Jake Cardinal, "ACFN Calls For Reparations And Hunting Rights In Wood Buffalo National Park," Alberta Native News, August 19, 2021
Over the last 18 months, WSSS has had the privilege of working with the community of Conklin, Alberta to help address their homelessness crisis. This work has included completing a qualitative analysis of the crisis, coordinating a community research project, and helping to establish a housing and homelessness committee in the community. In late 2018, using this research, the Conklin Resource Development Advisory Committee (CRDAC) along with Wood Buffalo Housing, submitted a funding application to the Government of Alberta with the hopes that the government will help to address the current homelessness crisis.
Below are some of the research that has been developed over the last 18 months. If you have any questions or comments please contact Peter at 780-381-9168 or email@example.com.
Report: Conklin Homelessness Estimation Report
Presentation: How Much Longer? Homelessness in Conklin, Alberta, at Canadian Rural & Remote Housing and Homelessness Symposium in Canmore, Alberta.
More than two years after the devastating 2016 Horse River Wildfire, the First Nations and Métis of the RMWB have released the results of a major research project about the wildfire's impact on their communities. WSSS is pleased to announce the October 30th release of the report, Rebuilding Resilient Indigenous Communities in the RMWB, and the accompanying video, Voices Around the Fire: An Indigenous Wildfire Story.
This study was completed in partnership with the Athabasca Tribal Council, Athabasca River Métis, and the Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre. The project—which included 10 focus groups, 40 interviews, and a survey with more than 600 responses—is the first Indigenous-controlled disaster study to bring together First Nations and Métis from an entire region.
Links to the video, report, media coverage, and related research material are provided below.
WSSS was proud to assist with this work, which aims to ensure that Indigenous impacts, concerns, and recommendations are heard. We hope, too, that it will help people to recover from the 2016 Horse River Wildfire and build a foundation for improved collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments in disaster management.
If you have any questions or comments please contact us: Tim (firstname.lastname@example.org/587-890-6325) or Peter (email@example.com/780-381-9168).
Tim and Peter
Rebuilding Resilient Indigenous Communities in the RMWB - Executive Summary
Rebuilding Resilient Indigenous Communities in the RMWB: Final Report
Voices Around the Fire: An Indigenous Wildfire Story
Video and Report Launch - 29 October 2018
Global News Story - 29 October 2018
CBC News - October 30, 2018
McMurray Matters - 29 October 2018
McMurray Matters Oct 29, 2018, McMurray Métis C.E.O. Bill Loutitt, ACFN Chief Allan Adam, and WSSS Principal Dr. Timothy Clark discuss the findings from the Rebuilding Resilient Indigenous Communities Research Project.
Other Media Coverage
This weekend we lost one of the pillars of our community, Métis Elder Elsie Yanik. Mrs. Yanik touched many, but there is one particular story that has stayed with me, and I think it will be the one that helps our community recover from the trauma of last summer.
She told me this story a few times, and in a few different ways; She shared it as part of her 2014 University of Alberta Convocation Address where you can still find it in print and as a video (go to June 11, 2014 and fast forward to about the 32 minute mark). She did a much better job telling it, but I will do my best to honour her story as I share it today.
Elsie was a beautiful and inspiring Elder who has accomplished so much in her long life. She has explained to me many times that those many accomplishments are all grounded in a simple lesson she learned as a child – the importance of always being kind.
The lesson came to her in 1925 when she was 7 years old in Fort Fitzgerald. Her mother had been ill for almost a year and her father was away cooking on the steamboats. Elsie was the oldest child at home, and her bed-ridden mother needed to teach her daughter to look after the family. In that year Elsie learned how to bead and sew, how to make bannock and stew, how to look after her younger siblings. In the fall, Elsie turned 8 and her older brothers returned home from the boats and decided they needed to take their mother to Edmonton for medical treatment, sadly this would be the last time Elsie saw her mother.
Elsie explained that everything was fine until Christmas, when it seemed Santa Claus had forgotten the family. When Syd Porter checked in, he discovered a crying 8-year-old girl trying to do her best for her family.
Syd was a solitary man who lived in a little cabin in Fort Fitz. A WWI volunteer, he had seen unimaginable scenes, though he never talked about his past to those in town. Instead he did what he could to be kind and help those in need.
After Elsie told Syd that Santa had forgotten her and her family. Syd left, returning a couple hours later with a gunnysack full of gifts. He explained to the young girl that Santa had not forgotten the family, but had simply misplaced the gifts.
Elsie explains: “You see, kindness is enduring. Kindness makes everyone feel good. The person who gives kindness feels just as good as the person receiving kindness. When we witness kindness it makes us feel good. We were not the only children that Syd Porter cared for. Syd’s old gunnysack full of gifts was repeated countless times. Whenever the need arose he was there. He did not wait to hear about it, he actively sought out opportunities to help.”
These last few months I come back to this story often. I now know how Elsie felt as a child. Doing all she could to care for her family, but barely being able to care for herself. As I’ve sat searching for answers after May 3, it is the kindness of our community that has helped me through the more difficult times - 88,000 Syd Porters actively searching for opportunities to help and 88,000 Elsie Yaniks overwhelmed by individual acts of kindess.
So now, as days stretch to months, and our community’s patience and understanding are pushed to new limits, please remember Elsie’s lesson and be kind, our community needs it.
REPORT: Incorporating the Findings from the CEMA Indigenous Traditional Knowledge Framework into the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation & Reporting Agency: Key Findings and Recommendations
The objectives of this report are twofold. First, it will contextualize the CEMA ITK Framework within the larger history of Indigenous participation in oil sands monitoring and by so doing, show that there has been a distinct and real disconnection between previous program learnings and the commitment to implement the use of ITK into Governmental monitoring programs. Second, the report will make a series of recommendations regarding how the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation, and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) might implement the CEMA ITK Framework key findings, in alignment to it’s mandate, into effective processes that will integrate ITK in a manner that is culturally appropriate and strengthen the role of Indigenous communities in environmental monitoring in Northeastern Alberta.
Willow Springs Strategic Solutions (WSSS) is pleased to announce that Dr. Timothy David Clark has been made a Principal at our firm, effective immediately. Dr. Clark has a wealth of national and international experience in the areas of extractive and resource industries, First Nation, Métis, and Indigenous rights, impact assessment, community economic development, and macroeconomic and regulatory policy. Since first joining WSSS as Research Director in 2014, Timothy has carried out numerous cultural and socioeconomic impact assessments, traditional knowledge and use studies, third-party technical reviews, and community consultations for our clients. With Dr. Clark in this new capacity, we will continue to provide our clients with the high-quality, on-time, and well-priced products and services they have come to expect from WSSS.
Willow Springs Strategic Solutions (WSSS) Inc. is a social science, environmental, and management consulting company with offices in Fort McMurray and Cochrane, Alberta. We offer our clients a variety of research products and consulting services including traditional knowledge and use studies, cultural and socioeconomic impact assessments, community consultation and engagement, community history and genealogical studies, and strategic planning, capacity building, and regulatory support.
For more information on our company, please visit our website: www.willowspringsss.com.
The following an abstract for a chapter by Research Associate Tara Joly that will appear in a book titled Amphibious Anthropologies: Human Lives Wet and Dry likely sometime in 2016. If you would like to learn more about her work please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the Athabasca region of Alberta, Canada, oil companies are working with scientists to develop methods for constructing peat-producing wetlands, known locally as muskeg, in a post-mining landscape. Over half of the pre-mined boreal landscape contained muskeg, supporting indigenous peoples’ livelihoods for generations. For those communities whose homelands are disturbed by oil sands extraction, reclaiming muskeg is entangled with indigenous rights and the “spirit in the land” (Buffalo 2011). Yet indigenous concerns are often subsumed within scientific and bureaucratic discourses that favour classification and quantification. Rifts erupt between industrial, bureaucratic, scientific, and indigenous reclamation narratives. For whom and on what terms is muskeg being reclaimed?
The Government of Alberta requires oil companies to reclaim disturbed land by achieving “equivalent capability” of land use (Alberta 2014:97), or rebuilding the productivity of a landscape. With shifting definitions of “productive” land – economic, ecological, or somewhere in-between – reclamation practices in Alberta evolved from creating cattle ranches and agricultural lands to constructing muskeg. Oil companies continue to translate these bureaucratic definitions of reclamation by telling indigenous communities that it seeks to “put the land back”. Yet for these communities, reclamation requires not only achieving ecological or economic productivity, but also reclaiming a cultural landscape.
Drawing on ethnographic and archival research with wetland scientists and the Fort McMurray Métis community, this chapter discusses how contested, converging, and entangled narratives of muskeg reclamation are rooted in competing legal systems (Borrows 2010, Merry 1988). I begin the chapter by outlining indigenous and settler histories in the Athabasca region. I describe how settler colonialism (Wolfe 1999) in Canada served to reframe the land in terms of its productivity or utility value, analogous to a Lockean labour theory of property that holds ownership is born from the exertion of human labour upon natural resources. I then trace how this labour theory perpetuates through historical and contemporary government narratives about muskeg and reclamation, often in terms of “improving” muskeg’s productivity for valued uses: roads, forestry, and, more recently, biodiversity and traditional land use. Finally I explore how a Lockean framework of “productivity” can be at odds with indigenous perspectives of land use. To illustrate, I describe how muskeg reclamation requires communities to grow with environments, compelling attention to indigenous legal orders (Napoleon 2013) and relationships of reciprocity and ethical relationality (Donald 2009, Couthard 2015). I explain how reclaiming muskeg involves more than just returning ecological productivity for indigenous communities: it is a process of healing and resurgence in which culture and ecology must grow together.
I conclude by reflecting on the importance of incorporating multiple narratives of land use for indigenous participation in reclamation efforts. For muskeg reclamation to be successful for indigenous communities, reclamation policy and practice must reconcile their reflections of historically contingent settler colonial conceptualisations of utility, which continue to inscribe indigenous homelands as resource territory. Indigenous legal orders, including recognition of indigenous rights and growing with environments (both wet and dry), must be a key component of mine reclamation policy in Canada.
Alberta, Government of.
2014. Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. Edmonton: Alberta Queen’s Printer.
2010. Canada’s Indigenous Constitution. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Buffalo, K., C.E. Jones, J.C. Errington, and M.I.A. MacLean
2011. Fort McKay First Nation’s Involvement in Reclamation of Alberta’s Oil Sands Development. In 35th Annual B.C. Mine Reclamation Symposium. Lake Louise, Alberta.
2015. Conference Keynote Presentation. In The State of Extraction: Corporate Imperatives, Public Knowledge, and Global Struggles for Alternatives. March 28. Simon Fraser University Harbour Centre: Vancouver. https://www.youtube.come/watch?v=oE1oAYsqeE8, accessed 19 October 2015.
Donald, Donald. T.
2009. Forts, Curriculum, and Indigenous Métissage: Imagining Decolonization of Aboriginal-Canadian Relations in Educational Contexts. First Nations Perspectives, 2(1), 1–24.
Merry, Sally Engle.
1988. Legal Pluralism. Law & Society Review 22(5): 869–896.
2013. Thinking About Indigenous Legal Orders. In Dialogues on Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. René Provost and Colleen Sheppard, eds. Pp. 229–245. Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice, 17. Springer Netherlands. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-007-4710-4_11, accessed 13 October 2015.
1999. Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology: The Politics and Poetics of an Ethnographic Event. London and New York: Cassell.
In the summer of 2015, McMurray Metis initiated a project to collect historical photographs and other related information to share with the broader community. The community worked with WSSS on the project. McMurray Metis and WSSS personnel presented some of the findings at the 2015 Western Canadian Studies Conference hosted by St. John’s College, University of Manitoba on November 7, 2015. Carmen Wells, Jennifer Gerbrandt and Peter Fortna contributed to the presentation which was delivered by Carmen Wells and Jennifer Gerbrandt.
The McMurray Métis' Cumulative Effects Management Strategy: Connecting Métis, Social Scientific and Scientific Research Methodologies to Monitor the Effects of Oil Sands Development.
In July 2015, Peter Fortna from WSSS was invited to give a presentation at the University of Aberdeen, Northern Colonialism Research Program regarding his work with the McMurray Metis. The talk touched on a number of topics with contributions from fellow researchers interested in finding a better way to understand the cumulative impacts of industrial development on Indigenous Communities in Northeastern Alberta. The talk was recorded and is now available for download below. We hope you enjoy, and if you have any comments please send Peter an email at email@example.com.
Details about the event can be found here.
The presentation's accompanying PowerPoint can be viewed here.
The presentation can be downloaded to here.
The presentation can be listened to here.