Energy uncertainty: the effects of oil extraction on the Woodland Cree First Nation
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One of the most pressing and polarizing issues in Western Canada today, and for many First Nations groups in particular, is the oil sands of Alberta. My thesis is entitled Energy Uncertainty: The Effects of Oil on the Woodland Cree First Nation. My research is focused on understanding how long-term energy extraction affects the past, present, and futures of the members the Woodland Cree First Nation (WCFN) who are demanding an active role in the planning and consultation processes that affect their lives and their traditional lands. I have found that the energy consultation process is not working for the interests of the WCFN and the effects of oil extraction in this community are examples of how and why it is not working. During the summer of 2013 I spent nine weeks in the WCFN community and used three methods of research: participant observation, interviews, and literature analysis. I completed 22 interviews during my field work research, and made use of nine transcribed interviews with WCFN elders collected in 1995 by Rhonda Laboucan. I used a grounded approach to the content and thematic analysis of my interview and field note data. My thesis is guided by a political ecological approach because this framework challenged me to look at this subject from many angles and perspectives. This approach has kept my research from being narrowly focused on abstracted or stereotypical aspects of the energy extraction process which I cannot understand without attention to its social, political, environmental, and spatial aspects. The body of my thesis includes three chapters which explore: • The practical realities of energy consultation and its relation to Treaty Eight and Traditional Knowledge. • The complex relationship between temporality, fatalism, and the effects of the oil industry on the people, land, and animals of the WCFN. • A detailed ethnographic description of the events and processes that followed a contaminated water spill on the WCFN traditional land. My key findings include: consultation is not working for the interests of the WCFN; oil is impacting the animals, environment, and WCFN community; oil-related spills are affecting (but not being dealt with in a way that respects) WCFN people or land; and there are problems with collection, interpretation, dissemination, and even access to energy extraction and consultation information. My research helps to fill the gaps in our understanding of the complex effects of long-term energy extraction on small communities, in particular the impacts of oil and oil sands development in a small First Nations community context.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
DepartmentArchaeology and Anthropology
CommitteeNatcher, David; Ervin, Alexander
Copyright DateDecember 2015