The Crowd vs. Tarsands Mining in Canada

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Beaver Lake Cree Nation Installs 24,650-Watt Solar Project on Community School

Beaver Lake Cree Nation says project just the first step on its “path to Indigenous energy sovereignty.

Youth members of Beaver Lake Cree Nation near Fort McMurray, Alta. help install photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of their community's school in this undated video screen capture.

Contributed/Beaver Lake First Nation
Youth members of Beaver Lake Cree Nation near Fort McMurray, Alta. help install photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of their community’s school in this undated video screen capture.

A First Nation about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton is shining a bright light on solar energy.

Beaver Lake Cree Nation, near Fort McMurray, has for years raised concerns about what they argue is the harmful effect of Alberta’s oil sands industry on residents’ health and lands.

And while some environmentalists get criticized for their fossil-intensive lifestyles, the small 1,000-member band wants to “walk the walk,” so to speak, and has installed 24,650 Watts of photovoltaic solar panels on its local school.

It’s just the first step on the “path to Indigenous energy sovereignty,” members of the Treaty 6 band said in a statement about the partnership launched with the environmental group Keepers of the Athabasca.

The idea isn’t just to power the community’s only school, however. The nation also hopes it can be a learning opportunity for children attending classes underneath the solar array on the rooftop.

“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,” a statement from the First Nation said, “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.”

In 2008, the First Nation launched sued the province and federal government in Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench, over what it alleged was their “failing to ensure that the treaty rights were minimally impaired by the cumulative effects of the developments” of the oil sands. The case has wound its way through the courts since.

A video about the project, posted on Facebook by the Alberta Tar Sands Coalition, had been viewed more than 50,000 times at time of publication.

In its recent provincial budget last week, Alberta increased incentives available for increasing the province’s solar energy production.