Fort McMurray First Nation Commits Muskego Memories to Film – Watch Now!


[This article is written by Cleo Reese. She is a grandmother and councilor in Fort McMurray First Nation and an organizer of the annual Tar Sands Healing Walk]

In Fort McMurray First Nation we have quite a few concerns about the environment around us. Due to the fast pace of development of industry on the land, together with climate change, the impact on our traditional territory is greater than if it was just one or the other.

The Technical Advisory Group for the First Nations of Alberta worked with us to research muskeg and capture our Elder’s traditional knowledge on film, because that is a very significant part of the ecosystem up here. If something happens to the muskeg (Cree=Muskego), it has huge impacts for many generations to come. Being in the boreal forest, there are lots of wetland areas, with bogs and fens and muskeg, creeks and small lakes.  A lot of the elders still remember how things were before all the land was taken up by industry. The elders have noticed that the muskeg areas are drying out. There is water being taken out of the land around here for industry. We feel there’s more water is being taken out than there should be.

The birch trees seem to be dying out. The birch trees we have here are quite small. They’re not growing, they’re dying off it seems. People need to know where that is coming from, why that is happening. We know there’s a lot of water affected here. We don’t know if that’s climate change, or industry. But the water quality of our lake, Gregoire Lake, is not good any more.

Last year the Enbridge spill was very close to our community. It was only 20km away. That was in our traditional territory. Now there’s oil saturated fens, and small lakes out there. The surface oil has been cleaned up, but there’s still a lot that seeped into the ground. And that’s a muskeg area.

We’re also concerned about air quality. The elders tell us that the air doesn’t smell the same. That the air doesn’t smell good. If humans can smell that, then certainly animals will smell that too. We’re seeing a disappearance of local wildlife. I guess we still have rabbits around, but they’re not in abundance as they used to be. We’re not seeing moose around very much; they’re more rare now than they were before.

All of this points to the fact that we need to get more research done. We need more baseline data to understand what is happening to our land. The more information that we can get out there, the better. The more public support we can get, will help us get these research studies done as quickly as possible.

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About Michael Tyas

Michael Tyas is the managing editor of One River News. He graduated the University of Manitoba with an honours degree in environmental studies, and is a professional videographer and video trainer. He produced the feature length documentary "One River, Many Relations" in Fort Chipewyan. He continues to work with indigenous communities to share their stories around resource extraction, industrial development, and impacts on traditional territories.
  • William Milton

    makes me want to vomit..i lived by muskeg as a child, i played in muskeg…i felt muskeg below my feet muskeg was good..putting “Progress” before People..not Good!

  • William Milton

    I am native..but thats irrelevant. When i was a child..i lived by muskeg i played in muskeg..and i built forts with it…and it was good And more importantly..it was healthy. But it was clean and not for a second did i feel otherwise..and it ‘Can Be’ again if we stop using toxin emitting gases in favor of clean energy..but it has to be a global effort,,this problem is not related 2 just one community..or just one people…its a global effort..and if it as to be enforced so be it at least till people realize it..and are comfortable with the idea of clean energy and so forth…ie..for starters Vehicles..biggest problem in the world for pollutants…vote in favor of battery powered/ operated vehicles..and enforce it.i see some companies are finally getting on board..but it has to be done sooner than that..Everyone has to get on Baord..this is a worldwide (Catasprphe..that is detrimental to everyone..not just the native people.but Everyone!

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