A memorandum of understanding signed in southwest Edmonton Tuesday by the leader of an area First Nation and the head of a local utility company is aimed at solidifying a commitment to working together and moving forward with reconciliation, both parties said.
“It’s very significant,” Chief Billy Morin said of the Enoch Cree Nation’s agreement with EPCOR. “I’m not aware of too many MOUs with utility companies.”
The MOU creates a framework for EPCOR and the Enoch Cree Nation to work together on projects that cause ground disturbance at the E.L. Smith and Rossdale Water Treatment Plants in Edmonton and also advances a planned solar farm project in the area.
“When you think of utility companies such as EPCOR, which does such a good job of protecting our water, protecting our land, protecting our air and using that energy in a good way to provide for our people, it only just makes sense for us to make partnerships at that level so we can bring our inherent knowledge of traditions and medicine together… for everybody,” Morin said.
Morin spoke to reporters during a news conference near the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant shortly after signing the document.
“This used to be Enoch Cree Nation reserve lands,” he said. “In 1908 it was taken from us and its been over 100 years since we’ve gotten to practise ceremonies, since we got to dance on this land.
“We’re honouring our ancestors… by coming back here today.”
The MOU’s signing was complemented by a pipe ceremony and a drum and dance performance with participants wearing traditional clothing.
“It’s part of the reconciliation process,” said EPCOR CEO Stuart Lee. “It’s part of bringing together our organization with Enoch and celebrating the chance to share this land and reuniting the Enoch with the lands that they’ve traditionally held ceremonies on.”
Lee said EPCOR began discussing how to formalize such an agreement with the First Nation about a year ago, with both parties expressing a desire to move forward with clean water and clean energy initiatives. He added that while part of the site where Tuesday’s ceremony took place will be developed into a $26-million solar farm, the area will also be used to harvest medicinal plants by the Enoch Cree Nation.
“This is a special place, and it has been for thousands of years,” Lee said, noting research shows traditional Indigenous ceremonies took place at the site about 9,000 years ago. “(Today’s MOU) charts a path forward, where EPCOR and Enoch will walk together in collaboration.
“It’s part of the reconciliation process.”
Morin said the parcel of land is going to be “a place where we can come and talk with EPCOR on future projects together.”
“When we talk about the treaty relationship, whether that’s government or whether that’s private sector or a utility company like EPCOR, ultimately what we want to do is share and that’s what we’re doing today, and finally we have relationships and partners who are willing to share and take care of this land together.”
Watch below: (From June 16, 2019) Steps to approve EPCOR’s contentious solar farm proposal are moving ahead with city council. The proposed site is on EPCOR land but also in Edmonton’s river valley. Sarah Komadina reports.