For the first time, a First Nation is now running a gas station inside Edmonton city limits.
This month, Papaschase First Nation took over the long-standing Petro Canada location on Calgary Trail between 23 Avenue and 34 Avenue.
The station, which was not for sale, had been a corporate asset owned by Petro Canada but the company sold it to the First Nation in an act of reconciliation.
“This land was illegally taken in 1888 by the federal government… Three people only agreed to the surrender. Meanwhile, there’s more that could have voted and they never were consulted,” explained Chief Calvin Bruneau.
That history will be on display inside the store. The council is creating brochures for people to take that will teach them about Papaschase.
Art, including jewelry and dream catchers, and food like bannock will soon be for sale.
All 20 employees are Indigenous.
“We want to have our own people there. We want people used to that idea of seeing our people behind the till and at the pumps,” Bruneau said.
“It’s also helping our people too, with employment.”
The council is still working with the government to get tax exemption but members hope the profits from the business will help them grow.
“That’s part of the truth and reconciliation: calling for action — not only on the government side but on our side as well,” elder Fernie Marty told Global News.
“We’re taking a step forward here. We’re saying, ‘Here we are. Now we’re going to do something.’ We’re not taking handouts here. We’re willing to do something for ourselves.”
Marty believes the business is the start of many ventures for the First Nation as it looks to expand in the coming years.