Beaver Lake Cree Nation

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Beaver Lake First Nation
Beaver Lake First Nation is located in Alberta
Beaver Lake First Nation
Beaver Lake First Nation
Location of the Beaver Lake 131 reserve of the Beaver Lake First Nation
Coordinates: 54°40′07″N 111°52′17″W / 54.66861°N 111.87139°W / 54.66861; -111.87139Coordinates: 54°40′07″N 111°52′17″W / 54.66861°N 111.87139°W / 54.66861; -111.87139[1]
Country  Canada
Province  Alberta
Census division Division No. 12
Federal electoral district Fort McMurray—Athabasca
 • Type First Nations Council
 • Chief Henry Gladue[2]
 • Councillor Dennis Paradis[2]
 • Councillor Herman Cardinal[2]
 • Councillor Germaine Anderson[2]
Elevation[3] 577 m (1,893 ft)
Time zone Mountain Time Zone (UTC-7)
 • Summer (DST) Mountain Time Zone (UTC-6)
Area code(s) 780
Highways Highway 55
Highway 36
Highway 881

The Beaver Lake Cree Nation is a First Nations band government located 105 kilometres (65 mi) northeast of Edmonton, Alberta, representing people of the Cree ethno-linguistic group in the area around Lac La Biche, Alberta, which is the location of their band office. Their treaty area is Treaty 6. The Intergovernmental Affairs office consults with persons on the Government treaty contacts list. There are two parcels of land reserved for the band by the Canadian Crown, Beaver Lake Indian Reserve No. 131 and Blue Quills First Nation Indian Reserve. The latter reserve is shared with five other bands.

A Metis Settlement profile prepared by the Government of Alberta notes that their tribal affiliation is Woodland Cree or Wood Cree and their linguistic group is Algonquian (Cree).[2] Their population which includes 390 on reserve and 664 off-reserve, is 1,054 according to the Alberta government.[4] Their land base by Reserve Beaver Lake is 131 6,145.3 (hectares) total 6,145.3.[2] Chief Henry Gladue is chief of Beaver Lake First Nation (BLCN). Dennis Paradis, Herman Cardinal, Germaine Anderson are Councillors. Other elected representatives include Member of the Legislative Assembly (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills) Shayne Saskiw. Brian Jean was the Conservative MP for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, from 2004 until his resignation in 2014; the seat is now vacant.[5]

The governments of Alberta and Canada authorized hundreds of projects or developments representing thousands of individual authorizations related to "oil and gas, forestry, mining and other activities" on Beaver Lake Cree Nation core lands, covering a large portion of northeast Alberta and falling outside the boundaries of any Aboriginal reserve including within its territory, the Cold Lake Weapons Range. The Beaver Lake Cree Nation are contesting the "cumulative effect" of these projects and developments on "core traditional territory."[6] On 14 May 2008 the Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN) issued a Statement of Claim against the governments of Alberta and Canada, claiming that "in failing to manage the overall cumulative environmental effects of development on core Traditional Territory",[7] Alberta and Canada have "breached the solemn commitment" in the 9 September 1876 Treaty 6, that the BLCN could "hunt, fish and trap in perpetuity."[7] On 30 April 2013, in Lameman v Alberta, the Court of Appeal of Alberta dismissed Alberta and Canada’s appeal of Honourable Madam Justice B.A. Browne's "historic, precedent-setting judgement, "in their entirety",[6] issued in March 2012.[7]


The Cree expanded steadily westward from the Hudson-James Bay country. Although the date of arrival of the Cree in the Lac la Biche region is unknown, archaeological evidence in the form of pre-contact pottery indicates that the Cree were in this region in the 1500s. A type of early Cree pottery known as Clearwater Lake Punctate is found regularly in forests in neighbouring Saskatchewan.[8] The Clearwater Lake Punctate, believed to be ancestral to the Cree people, is a ceramic container made during the late prehistoric period, dated to between 250 and 1100 years before present. There is one example in the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec that was found on,[9]

Whitefish Island on Amisk Lake, Saskatchewan in 1950s by Gina Sewap, of the local Cree First Nation. Its distinctive features include an encircling ring of exterior punctates which raise interior bosses, located just below an everted lip. The body of the pot is textured with cord or textile impressions. Pots of this variety are found over a wide area including parts of Eastern Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario.

— MCC 1998

Amisk (which means "beaver" in Cree) Lake was on the historic "voyageur highway" that led to the rich Athabaska region.[9][10] Examples were also found on Black Fox Island on Lac La Biche,[11] and on the shores of Wappau Lake.[12] The BLCN included their history on their official webpage and in a legal document, regarding the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project[13]

Location on fur trade route[edit]

Fur trade routes: The Beaver River flows from Beaver Lake near Lac La Biche into Lac Île-à-la-Crosse. The La Biche River flows from Lac La Biche to the Athabasca River.[Notes 1]

The traditional land of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation was on the historical voyageur route that linked the rich Athabaskan region to Hudson Bay. David Thompson and George Simpson used the fur-trade route via the Beaver River from the main Methye Portage route that reached the Athabasca River.[14] David Thompson founded a trading post on Red Deers Lake now known as Lac La Biche[15] in 1798-99 and overwintered there, entering copious notes in his diary on the Nahathaway (Cree), their customs, traditions and the Western Boreal forest including this passage,[16]

plenteous supply of white fish and beaver. On the region of the western forest land, at a fine Lake called the Red Deers Lake... at the head of the small streams which feed the Beaver River the southern branch of the Churchill River in October we erected a trading house and passed the winter.

— Thompson 1916:304-5

There was competition between the Canadian traders of the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company.[15]

The Cree, one of the "largest tribes in Canada" were referred to by the early explorers and fur traders as Kristineaux, Kinisteneaux, Kiliston, Kree, Cris and various other names such as Nahathaway.[17] Cree territory extended west from the Hudson-James Bay region to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and in Alberta, between the north banks of the north Saskatchewan River to Fort Chipewyan. This includes the Beaver, Athabaska and Peace River basins. It is noted in the department of Indian Affairs Annual Reports that Pee-ay-sis of the Lac La Biche band as far north as Great Slave Lake.[8]

Alexander Mackenzie who travelled from Montreal to the Arctic Ocean via the Methy Portage (see map) provided a detailed account of the Kinisteneaux (Cree) in 1789.

An Oblate mission was established at Lac la Biche in 1853[18] and missionaries "visited the Cree on the South shore of Beaver Lake as early as 1856."[19] The Blue Quill's Indian Residential School (AB-2a) in Lac La Biche, which opened in 1862, was one of the first residential schools in Alberta.[20]

Treaty 6[edit]

Chief Pee-Yas-See-Wah-We-Cha-Koot, also known as Pee-ay-sis, or Pee-ay-sees and Councillor, Pay-Pay-See-See_moo signed the adhesion made to Treaty 6 at Fort Pitt on 9 September 1876, on behalf of the Beaver Lake Band No. 131.[21]

Traditional land use[edit]

A report commissioned by Cenovus[22] acknowledged that the Beaver Lake Cree Nation indicated that they practice Traditional Land Use (TLU) activities and that they possess Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). This report contains detailed maps describing sites where "aboriginal groups practice traditional trapping, hunting, fishing, berry picking and plant harvesting activities throughout the region. The traditional lands from which these resources are drawn may also contain sites of historical, cultural and spiritual importance."[23]

Whitefish atihkamêk ᐊᑎᐦᑲᒣᐠ (CW) was the staff of life of the Wood Cree and they lived in areas of high whitefish availability, such as Lac la biche.[12]

Oil sands development and Beaver Lake Cree Nation[edit]

David Suzuki explained that,[24]

BLCN lands cover an area the size of Switzerland and overlap the oil sands. The territory now yields 560,000 barrels of oil a day. Industry wants to raise that to 1.6 million. BLCN land already has 35,000 oil and gas sites, 21,700 kilometres of seismic lines, 4,028 kilometres of pipelines and 948 kilometres of road. Traditional territory has been carved into a patchwork quilt, with wild land reduced to small pieces between roads, pipes and wires, threatening animals like woodland caribou that can't adapt to these intrusions.

— David Suzuki 28 August 2013

Upon retirement as an MP, Alberta Opposition Leader Brian Jean had suggested he would enter provincial or local politics in Fort McMurray-Athabasca, because of his concerns for the speed of oil-sands development at the expense of inadequate infrastructure development—such as hospitals, senior homes and twinning of Highway 63, "the perilous route connecting Fort McMurray with Southern Alberta." Jean explains that the most urgent issues facing communities he represented, were in provincial not federal hands.[25]. Jean was elected MLA in the riding of Fort McMurray-Conklin in the 2015 Alberta General Election.

Cumulative effects of development[edit]

A pivotal 1983 article entitled An Ecological Framework for Environmental Impact Assessment in Canada,[26] provided the impetus for the increased use of cumulative effects assessments instead of conventional single-project Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA)s that had been used since the 1970s.[27] As expectations broadened in terms of the scope of assessments, it became apparent that conventional single-project EIAs did not consider environmental degradation, resulting from cumulative effects.[27][Notes 2]

The governments of Alberta and Canada authorized "300 projects or developments" representing 19,000 individual authorizations" related to "oil and gas, forestry, mining and other activities" on Beaver Lake Cree Nation core lands, covering a large portion of northeast Alberta and falling outside the boundaries of any Aboriginal reserve including within its territory, the Cold Lake Weapons Range.

The Beaver Lake Cree Nation are contesting the "cumulative effect" of these projects and developments on "core traditional territory."[6] On 14 May 2008 the Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN) issued a Statement of Claim against the governments of Alberta and Canada, claiming that "in failing to manage the overall cumulative environmental effects of development on core Traditional Territory",[7] Alberta and Canada have "breached the solemn commitment" in the 9 September 1876 Treaty 6, that the BLCN could "hunt, fish and trap in perpetuity."[7] On 30 April 2013, in Lameman v Alberta, the Court of Appeal of Alberta dismissed Alberta and Canada’s appeal of Honourable Madam Justice B.A. Browne's "historic, precedent-setting judgement, "in their entirety",[6] issued in March 2012.[7]

Kétuskéno Declaration[edit]

On 14 May 2008, the Beaver Lake Cree released the "Kétuskéno Declaration,"[28]" "Kawîkiskeyihtâkwan ôma kîyânaw ohci Amiskosâkahikanihk ekanawâpamikoyahk ôhi askiya kâtâpasinahikâteki ôta askîwasinahikanink âhâniskâc ekîpepimâcihowâkehk." asserting their role as caretakers of their traditional territories and started a legal action to: a) enforce recognition of their Constitutionally protected rights to hunt, trap and fish, and b) protect the ecological integrity of their territories."[29] They alleged that development from the oil sands, forestry and the local municipal government infringes upon the First Nation's 1876 treaty rights to hunt, trap and fish[30] Among other resources they foregrounded a native map as evidence.[31][32]

The lawsuit[edit]

Through Treaty 6 the BLCN "were given reserve land and the right to hunt and fish in perpetuity on a much larger piece of territory, their traditional hunting grounds. The essence of the lawsuit is that approximately 17,000 approved oilsands projects will make hunting and fishing impossible for the 920-member band and their future generations.[33]

The Co-operative Group[edit]

The Co-operative Group supported the Beaver Lake Cree Nation as part of its 'Toxic Fuels' campaign with WWF-UK "against the alarming global trend of developing carbon-intensive unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands",[34] which ran from 2008 to 2011. The Co-operative Group became aware of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation concerns regarding oil sands development, through the 2008 Kétuskéno Declaration. Colin Baines, Campaigns Manager at The Co-operative Group described the Beaver Lake Cree Nation legal action as "perhaps the best chance we have to stop tar sands expansion".[35] Their involvement led to major campaigns, particularly in the United Kingdom which resulted in major media coverage since 2009. The Co-operative Group sponsored a trip by then-Chief Al Lameman and other senior members of Beaver Lake Cree and their legal counsel to London to officially launch the 'Toxic Fuels' campaign in February 2009. A rally was held outside of the Canadian Embassy in protest of tar sand expansion. This resulted in widespread media attention with major features in The Guardian,[36] Financial Times[37] A team from the BBC accompanied representatives of The Co-operative Group to Beaver Lake in July 2009, documenting their visit. The resulting programme entitled 'Tar Wars'[38] was shown in the UK and globally as part of the 'Our World' series. Their visit to Beaver Lake generated significant media coverage in Alberta.[39] In September 2010, then-Chief Lameman returned to the UK as guest of honor for the launch of a major photographic exhibition on the oil sands called 'Tarnished Earth',[40] in which the BLCN legal challenge featured.[41]

The Co-operative Group fund raised or donated over C$400,000 to support the BLCN legal case,;[42] funding the production of videos, including elder depositions, documenting BLCN traditional way of life, and threats to this way of life by oil sand development for use in the legal case. It also funded research into the impacts of development on the endangered woodland caribou and supported a successful First Nation legal action to force federal government to take action under the Species at Risk Act.[43]

UK-based companies like BP and Shell and UK investors are very active in the Athabasca oil sands,[44] and the United Kingdom has become a global centre for fossil fuel finance with 12-15 percent of CO2 emissions associated with products and services of UK-listed companies.[45] The Co-operative Asset Management, then part of the Co-operative Group, cited the Beaver Lake Cree Nation and "litigation brought by local communities, increasingly affected by pollution, deforestation and wildlife disturbance, claiming breaches of the treaty rights protecting their traditional livelihoods" in shareholder resolutions co-tabled at the 2010 AGMs of BP and Shell.[46] The Co-operative Group in the United Kingdom is the world's largest consumer co-operative. The Co-operative Group worked with Drew Mildon, of Woodward and Company law firm out of Victoria as legal counsel for the BLCN.[30]

Cold Lake oil sands[edit]

The Cold Lake oil sands deposit, located near Cold Lake, Alberta, south of the Athabasca oil sands, and directly east of the capital Edmonton, is one of the largest oil sands deposits in Alberta.[47][48][49][50]

Alberta owns "81 percent of mineral rights, including oil sands. Mineral rights owned by the Crown are managed by the Alberta Department of Energy on behalf of the citizens of the province. The remaining 19 percent of the mineral rights in the province are held by the Federal Government within Aboriginal reserves, by successors in title to the Hudson's Bay Company, by the railway companies and by the descendants of original homesteaders through rights granted by the Federal Government before 1887. These rights are referred to as "freehold rights".[51]

The federal and provincial government granted "roughly 300 projects with about 19,000 permits"[52] in an area covering a "large portion of northeast Alberta", both "inside and outside"[52] the Beaver Lake First Nation reserve, including the Cold Lake Weapons Range. Most of the grants were made by the province of Alberta but the federal government made 7 of these grants. The Lawyer for the BLCN, Mr. Mildon, explains that BLCN are seeking compensation for losing hunting and fishing rights for the "cumulative effects of oil sands and other industries such as mining and forestry violated their treaty rights, in "past and current projects."[52]

The Beaver Lake Cree are part of a legal dispute over this development on their Treaty lands. In 2008 they issued a declaration, asserting they are the legitimate caretakers of these lands (which includes part of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range and extends into Saskatchewan).[28] This was followed by a 2012 lawsuit against the governments of Alberta and Canada, alleging that by allowing unfettered development without the band's permission, the governments had violated their treaty rights. The Band has received support in the case from UK-based coop The Co-operative, and the ENGO People & Planet.[53]

In 1980 a plant in Cold Lake oil sands was one of just two oil sands plants under construction in Alberta.[54]

Some of the oil sands in the Cold Lake deposit have a low enough density that they can be extracted through drilling, as opposed to mining.[55]

Primrose thermal in situ oilsands project[edit]

Canadian Natural Resources Limited's one of the largest independent crude oil and natural gas producers in the world, with its head office in Calgary, with operations are focused in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin,[56] the North Sea and offshore West Africa. CNRL"s Primrose field produced to "99,000 barrels per day"[56] Synthetic Crude Oil (SCO) in 2012, c.100,000 to 107,000 barrels per day in 2013[57] and expects to "add value for decades."[56] Canadian Natural Resources Limited is an oil and gas exploration, development and production company centered in Calgary, Alberta. Operations are focused in Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, the North Sea and offshore West Africa. It ranks number 251 on the Forbes Global 2000 list for 2009.[58] Canadian Natural uses the Kirby South Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) extraction[56] method including both the cyclical The Primrose project uses "CSS or cyclic steam stimulation, also called "huff and puff," where steam is injected under pressure into the formation to melt the heavy, sticky oil, then shut off while the warmed oil is pumped out. Then the process is repeated."[57] and steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) technologies the Primrose and Wolf Lake - Thermal In Situ located approximately 55 kilometres (34 mi) north of Bonnyville.[59] The Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s "operations use an “in situ” or underground extraction technology called cyclic steam stimulation, which involves injecting thousands of gallons of superhot, high-pressure steam into deep underground reservoirs. This heats and liquefies the hard bitumen and creates cracks through which the bitumen flows and is then pumped to the surface.[60][61] This is not a spill but a pipeline blowout due to the cyclic steam stimulation extraction method.[62] By June 29 the Canadian Natural Resources claimed the "oil and water leak" at Primrose "affected four hectares of slough."[57]

On 24 June 2013 CNRL noticed a "mixture of heavy oil and water was discovered on Monday near Pad 22 on its Primrose thermal in situ oilsands project located on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range."[57] On 27 June 2013, the Alberta Energy Regulator's press release described it as a "release of bitumen emulsion to surface at a high pressure cyclic steam project" in an "off lease area that has impacted a nearby slough." The AER and the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Alberta Environment and Alberta Water and Sustainable Resource Development merged into Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, with a mandate to protect and enhance Alberta's natural environment. are monitoring the release and investigating the cause.[63] Clean-up began in May 2013.[62] In July 2013 the Alberta Energy Regulator told the Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. to stop injecting steam into the ground near Cold Lake after a series of four spills.[62][64] They have been "unable to stop an underground oil blowout that has killed numerous animals and contaminated a lake, forest, and muskeg at its operations in Cold Lake, Alta. The documents indicate that, since cleanup started in May, some 26,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with surface water have been removed, including more than 4,500 barrels of bitumen."[60] The 2013 incident appeared to be similar to one that occurred at Primrose on 3 January 2009.[57]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Beaver Lake 131". Geographical Names Data Base. Natural Resources Canada. Retrieved 2015-07-04. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Government of Alberta 2012, p. 21.
  3. ^ Elevation taken from Google Maps at geographic coordinates given in the Infobox. Accessed 2015-07-04.
  4. ^ BLCN 2012.
  5. ^ Huffington Post 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d Watson, Bielby & Veldhuis 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Woodward 2013.
  8. ^ a b BLCN 2012, p. 12.
  9. ^ a b MCC 1998.
  10. ^ Marchildon 2002.
  11. ^ Paquin 2009.
  12. ^ a b BLCN 2012, p. 13.
  13. ^ Grant & Associates 2012.
  14. ^ Government of Canada.
  15. ^ a b Barkwell 2013.
  16. ^ Thompson 1916, p. 304-5.
  17. ^ Thompson 1916, p. 79.
  18. ^ Dickason & McNab 1992.
  19. ^ BLCN 2012a.
  20. ^ Lac La Biche Mission.
  21. ^ BLCN 2012, p. 14.
  22. ^ Cenovus 2013, p. 2.
  23. ^ Cenovus 2013, p. 3.
  24. ^ Suzuki 2013.
  25. ^ Wingrove 2014.
  26. ^ Beanlands & Duinker 1983.
  27. ^ a b Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) nd.
  28. ^ a b BLCN 2008.
  29. ^ BLCNb.
  30. ^ a b Narine 2009.
  31. ^ BLCN 2009, p. 13.
  32. ^ Sparke 2011.
  33. ^ Babiak 2009.
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ Jowit 2009.
  37. ^ Crooks 2009.
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ "Natives fight to protect Canada's tar sands". BBC News. 6 October 2010. 
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^ Nash, Baines & Monaghan 2009, p. 4.
  45. ^ Nash, Baines & Monaghan 2009, p. 9.
  46. ^
  47. ^ DOE 2010.
  48. ^ Biossat 1973.
  49. ^ Cohen 2003.
  50. ^ Strausz 1977.
  51. ^ Alberta Energy.
  52. ^ a b c Tait & Cryderman 2013.
  53. ^ Marcellin 2012.
  54. ^ Montreal Gazette 1980.
  55. ^ Premium Petroleum Corp 2007.
  56. ^ a b c d CNRL 2012, p. 1.
  57. ^ a b c d e Healing 2013.
  58. ^ Forbes 2009.
  59. ^ CNRL 2013.
  60. ^ a b Pullman & Lukacs 2013.
  61. ^ Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) 2009.
  62. ^ a b c Dosser 2013.
  63. ^ Alberta Energy Regulator 2013.
  64. ^ Canadian Press 2013.


  1. ^ Cumberland House, founded in 1774, was one of the most important fur trade depots in Canada. To the north the Sturgeon-Weir River led to the Churchill River which led to the Methye Portage and to Lake Athabaska in the rich Athabasca Country to the northwest. See Canadian canoe routes (early).
  2. ^ "Deficiencies in both environmental assessment practice and legislation did not provide the mechanisms to move practitioners from the examination of local short-term effects to more far-reaching goals such as sustainable development and maintenance of biodiversity."(CEAA)." Beanlands and Duinker's article "did more to assist cumulative effects assessments practice than any other single effort by ensuring a solid basis on which to conduct any conventional EIA(CEAA)."


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]