Grand Chief to Attend McMurray Water Keepers Gathering

FORT SIMPSON, NWT –As an important followup to the 2006 Keepers of the Water Declaration, the Athabasca Tribal Council (ATC) chiefs have convened a two-day meeting in Fort McMurray to discuss key emerging water issues which impact the Mackenzie watershed.

Dehcho Grand Chief Herb Norwegian will co-chair the event, along with host Chief Jim Boucher, chair of the ATC. The stated purpose of the Keepers of the Water gathering is to strengthen the political alliance between the two First Nations regarding the water spirit, to examine the current problems such as the development of Athabasca Oil Sands and to draw attention to the public of the serious depletion of the watersheds that feed the Mackenzie River Valley.

Norwegian said the meeting, hosted by the Athabasca Tribal Council (ATC), will deal with a variety of water issues such as the oil sands development on the watershed and how best to protect it, stop the decline in the quality and quantity of water and make plans for watershed management.

“These meetings will be an opportunity for the Dehcho and ATC leadership to discuss potential cooperation around the oil sands developments,” Norwegian said. “My interest is to ensure that there is a recognition of the fact that the tar sands developments are affecting Dene downstream, and that there is an opportunity to empower both groups to take some common positions in their dealings with governments and the oil industry. Protecting water should be seen as a trust by both groups, and this should be a bottom line position in our consultations with governments and with industry.”

The meeting will include a fact-finding tour of the massive and environmentally destructive tar sands developments in northern Alberta and a visit to Fort McKay, a band that is located in the midst of the oil sands.

The Dehcho First Nations (DFN) have long recognized that the Mackenzie River is tied in with water systems such as the Slave and Athabasca rivers which is being used by oil companies to mine and process the synthetic crude in the northern Boreal forest area.

In September last year the DFN held the first Keepers of the Water Conference on their land which concluded with the declaration that water is essential to life and a human right recognized around the world. The declaration ended by demanding “that immediate steps must be taken to ensure that the spirit of the water which sustains all life within the [Mackenzie] Basin be protected today for our ancestors and future generations.”

The Keepers of the Water gathering also approved a set of principles to guide the followup actions, the first of which will be held Jan. 30-31 at Fort McMurray.

For further information contact Grand Chief Herb Norwegian, DFN, Fort Simpson,

NWT, (867) 695-2355/2610