First Nations from across North America take part in fifth and final Healing Walk in Fort McMurray

"We're now stronger than ever to fight tar sands development across North America."

FORT MCMURRAY, AB, June 28, 2014 /CNW/ - First Nations from across North America took part today in the fifth and final Healing Walk in Fort McMurray, Alberta, an annual event that organizers say has achieved its ultimate purpose of building unity and alliances among First Nations impacted by tar sands development in Canada and the United States. Fort McMurray, the centre of tar sands development, was once traditional hunting, fishing and gathering grounds. The walk offered healing prayers to the land and to build strength and unity among people impacted by tar sands development.

"First Nations communities were once scared to share their stories about tar sands impacts, but the Healing Walk has been a safe place to share knowledge so that today First Nations are stronger than ever to fight tar sands development across North America," said Eriel Deranger, of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Indigenous people came from Houston, Alabama, and across Canada. First Nation leaders included the Grand Chief Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief Philip Stewart, Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations, Chief Steve Courterielle, Mikisew Cress First Nations. Hundreds from nearby communities and across North America also joined the walk, including First Nations rapper  Frank Waln, thirteen-year-old First Nation singer Takai Blaney and local doctor, John O'Connor.

On Friday there were a series or workshops about tar sands impacts. The recent Tsilhqot'in court case was top of mind and there were many conversations about the implications for future tar sands development.

"This is the last healing walk in the Athabasca region because it's time to shed light on other communities impacted by tar sands," said Jesse Cardinal, coordinator of Keepers of the Athabasca. "In order to stop the destruction, the healing has to start everywhere." 

The Healing Walk was organized by Keepers of the Athabasca, a network of First Nation, Metis and settler communities along the Athabasca River. There was a pipe ceremony before the walk, followed by a feast.

The Alberta tar sands produced approximately 1.9 million barrels of oil per day in 2012, but if industry and government's expansion plans are approved that number could reach 5 million barrels per day by the end of 2030. This year, First Nations have witnessed the oil spill in Cold Lake, which still continues without a way to stop it. Just this week, eight experts in environmental science, policy and risk from Simon Fraser University called for a moratorium on all new tar sands development until there is a comprehensive policy-making process for energy development for North America.

SOURCE Tar Sands Healing Walk

For further information: For photos and video please contact Sarjbit Kaur, 416-274-5324; Natalie Southworth, nsouthworth@videotron.ca; To talk to someone at the walk please contact: Jesse Cardinal, Keepers of the Athabasca, (780) 404-5053; Eriel Deranger, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, (780) 903-6598