Delegates from two Australian Indigenous tribes travelling the world to seek support and build awareness about a massive coal mine set to be built within their sacred territories stopped in Alberta this week.
The Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council are “gravely” concerned about the impacts the project will have on their traditional lands.
The Indian owned company Adani is awaiting land lease agreements to construct the 40km by 13km Carmichael mine north of the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland, Australia- approximately 10km away from Wangan and Jagalingou territories.
The group visited Alberta First Nations this week to learn about the plight faced by communities there involved in litigation battles with governments and industry.
“I think it’s now time that we join together as Indigenous brothers and sisters all around the world,” said Murrawah Johnson, who represented the youth of the Wangan and Jagalingou tribes.
“We’re fighting the same issues, fighting the same people, fighting the same companies, fighting the fossil fuel industry, fighting our governments to say this is not ok. We will not consent- we have not consented. And our right to either give or withhold consent is being oppressed.”
The tribes believe that if the Carmicheal mine is allowed to proceed it will “tear the heart out of the land.” Due to the massive size of the mine it would have devastating impacts on their native title, ancestral lands and waters, totemic plants and animals and tribal environmental culture and heritage.
Community members, leadership and Elders from Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Northern Alberta welcomed the delegation yesterday.
Over freshly cooked bowls of duck soup, bannock and baked pickerel friendships were made and stories were swapped of the battle against industrial development.
“We’re here to let you know about our struggle,” said Adrian Burragubba from the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council.
“We share in the struggle against colonization and our fight is against the colonies destroying our sacred sites.”
Beaver Lake Cree Nation filed a lawsuit against the Alberta and Canadian governments in 2008 for the over development of a tar sands expansion project happening in their homelands.
Beaver Lake Cree Nation member Eric Lameman talks with APTN’s Brandi Morin
Although it is a small community with approximately 900 members, Beaver Lake’s traditional territories are vast, stretching across 38, 927km through boreal forest which also sits among large oil sands deposits.
Currently there are about 35,000 oil and natural gas wells here.
The band is raising funds to take the case to trial and is relying on Treaty rights to win.
Beaver Lake is a signatory to Treaty 6, signed in 1876, which included promises protecting their inherent right to hunt, fish and trap and to ensure a future of balance development.
Eric Lameman, 57, grew up on the land, his father was a trapper and passed down the knowledge to his son. However, Lameman has noticed changes in recent years. A change in the land that shouldn’t be so recognizable in such a short period of time.
“As soon as you see land starting to change you spot it right away,” he said.
“You can see what industrial developments, how it’s hurt our land.”
He was happy to host the Wangan and Jagalingou tribes and said the time has come for Indigenous people to come together to take a stand against billion dollar industries.
There is strength in numbers, and if people join together they just might win.
Adrian Burragubba plays a didgereedoo at a ceremony on the Beaver Lake Cree Nation. Video: Brandi Morin/APTN
“They are going to have the same battle that we have. And the more they learn from what we are doing, I think they will stand a better chance. The water we drink- the water of life. And our air is being hurt. Our lands, everything.”
He pointed out that the dangers of the destruction caused by industrial development is not just for Indigenous people but for all of humanity.
“Every race will get involved because it involves everybody. Every race is finally starting to realize what industry is doing to us. It’s going to kill us- everyone. It’s not just the native people.”
The Australian tribal delegation planned to visit Fort McMurray and conduct a fly-over tour of the tar sands before making their way to the community of Fort Chipewyan on Thursday. The Athabasca Fort Chipewyan First Nation is also involved in litigation against tar sands operations that are encroaching their territories.