The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples contains many provisions that affirm rights related to the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change and environmental injustices. Indigenous Peoples globally are asserting their right to self- determination and exercising the rights, as outlined in the Declaration, and they are doing so in multiple ways. One of those ways is looking at sustainable energy solutions that drive economic development, protect species at risk, and above all put the rights of Ohkawiymowaskiy (Mother Earth) first.
Indigenous Peoples are on the frontlines of climate change. We are experiencing low water levels, higher than normal temperatures, which are affecting the way in which we exercise our inherent and Treaty Rights to hunt, trap, fish, gather, and forage. We are seeing changes in migration patterns of species and loss of plants and medicines, all of which we rely on. Combined with land disruption from fossil fuel development, climate change impacts our ability to even exist as a people.
Alberta creates 37% of Canada’s overall emissions, accounting for 66 metric tonnes GHG/person, the second highest in Canada. Alberta’s largest single contributor is the oil and gas sector, representing 46% of overall emissions coming out of the province. It is statistics like this that drove me to take an active role in participating in addressing the issues that perpetuate climate change.
Through the combined efforts of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN) team and the Keepers of the Athabasca, we have been able to start on the path to Indigenous Energy Sovereignty. By installing solar in our community, we are changing the political and economic ideologies of our children who grew up in the oil and gas era and within systems that put profit over health and life.
I am a firm believer in lifelong learning. The more we see educational principles that support Indigenous knowledge systems and teachings — while moving away from the tokenized checklist that supports globalization and capitalism with the exploitation of our Mother Earth and her resources as its driving force — the quicker we will begin to address the transmission of intergenerational trauma that is creating communities in crisis.
Inclusion of Indigenous knowledge systems in the energy systems we develop is a part of the decolonization and reconciliation process. If we are conscious of the energy choices we make, then putting in renewable energy systems, like solar, that move us closer to sovereignty, becomes an act of colonial resistance and the start of a path to reconciliation and addressing the intergenerational trauma that comes from the on-going desecration of Mother Earth for fossil fuel extraction. This is what this 24.65kW PV Solar Project stands for within the BLCN.
By installing this solar project on our school, the first of many solar projects we hope to install, we are shining a light of Indigenous resistance for other nations to follow, and a path to reconciliation for all those that claim to believe in it. This is another step in a long journey, but together we can build energy systems in line with the ecological limits of the planet and within the life systems of the original caretakers of these lands.
As I’ve said before, “If you breath the air, and drink the water then this is about you.” We are all in this boat together. It’s time we all starting rowing in the same direction.
Crystal Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree Nation