Report: Apology, Compensation Needed After ACFN Members Evicted, Separated From Families In Creation Of WB National Park

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is demanding an apology and compensation for lost territory in Wood Buffalo National Park.

A report by Willow Springs Strategic Solutions conducted over the past two years looked into whether Treaty rights were violated by the creation of the country’s biggest National park.

Thirty interviews with current members of the First Nation were conducted, while historical documents found in Ottawa, Edmonton, Fort Chipewyan, and Fort McMurray were also reviewed.

The park was formed back in 1922 and expanded just four years later.

A ‘significant portion’ of the Dené community’s (which later became ACFN) territory was included in the park’s creation.

Indigenous peoples had already settled in the area, built homes, and harvested off the land.

Throughout the process of forming the park, the report concludes there were a series of evictions and separations of families.

This came 23 years after Treaty 8 was signed between ‘the Indians of North America and the Queen of England.’

This agreement protected the rights of Indigenous peoples to continue their traditional practices over a section of land which included most of the area which would later be known as Wood Buffalo National Park.

“This litany of injustice against the Denésuliné throughout the history of the Park has gone unrecognized and unacknowledged by Parks Canada and the wider Canadian public,” read the report.

“This history had significant, damaging and intergenerational impacts on these families and the community as a whole, which are still experienced to this day.”

The report does highlight at least one attempt made by Parks Canada to reconcile over the past events.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the National organization started moving towards co-management of the park.

ACFN representatives were invited to take part, something they continue to do to this day.

However, the report explains many community members, past and present, don’t see this as adequately addressing the ‘troubled and violent history.’

“While co-management and reconciliation are promising approaches to Parks management in theory, in practice, they have been challenging and often insufficient,” the report added.

“Historical distrust and a structure that tends to relegate Indigenous leaders to consulting positions (rather than meaningful decision-making, co-governing positions) has limited the potential of these approaches and left ACFN participants feeling sidelined and dismissed, as has always been the case in the administration of WBNP.”

In the end, the report says the only proper way to move forward is acknowledgement of the past injustices, an official apology, and adequate compensation.

Mix News has reached out to Parks Canada who’ve stated they’re looking into the report.

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