Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Lessons from the West

By Lisa Dixon, 1st year MDP student

As I sit in my room writing this last blog, I’m feeling very reflective. While going into the placement I certainly had learning goals, I don’t think I necessarily had clear expectations. I’m fairly certain though, that any expectations I did have were exceeded. I’m grateful for the mish-mash of experiences I received during a jam-packed 12 weeks. Since my last post, there has been lots of work and even more events and I cannot believe I’ve been able to participate in as much as I have. 

Since my last post, Margaret and I began work in Saddle Lake Cree Nation, a community with almost 8,000 Band members. It has been a learning experience working in the community. The people have been fantastic but the issues the community face are staggering. There are times Margaret and I have been talking and both get frustrated because there are things to be done but nothing seems to be moving. But these are the realities in many communities and a 12-week field placement is not going to give us the time to see project/initiatives really move along. However, with that, I’m really happy to have had the experience working in Saddle Lake because the experience was invaluable and the lessons learned about working within community/political systems was something you have to experience.

Joe Stern (L), Winston Lapatak (Saddle Lake Economic Development Director), Margaret and Lisa

Prior to my placement I had hoped to learn more about the realities of the oil industry.  Up until my time in Alberta I had only read about the affects of oil development on the Indigenous communities in Alberta.  Like many people I was profoundly affected by the experience of communities like the Lubicon Cree.  Well I can certainly say my goal of learning more about the realities of this industry were met. In Alberta, oil is never far from the conversation. One event that I was really sorry to have missed out on was the Healing Walk that took place in Fort McMurray. There was not a week where there were not news stories about oil spills in the region. In July, Cold Lake, which is about an hour and a half away from Blue Quills, has been dealing with oil spills that have continued to do damage to the land.  Oil is also a particularly prominent topic in terms of Indigenous development in Alberta. For many people, this is viewed as the only real opportunity for development.  But there are those at Blue Quills that have the “radical” idea that there is development outside of oil. I was happy to be around people who had a similar view of oil development that I did. Some communities have done a lot of good work from revenue from oil development but it has also destroyed other communities.  This can’t be the only answer for Indigenous development and it was nice to see many were looking outside of oil for development options.

I had an absolute blast during my time at Blue Quills First Nations College and while leaving was without a doubt hard, I am comforted with the firm believe that one day I will be back!

Margaret (L), Lana Whiskey Jack (C) and Lisa (R)

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