Latasha Calf Robe says she and other Blood Tribe members were neither informed nor consulted about the chief and council’s decision to sign off on the Grassy Mountain coal mine project which is now moving through a federal impact assessment hearing.
“Consultation has taken place, however that does not translate to community support or community-level consultation,” Calf Robe said. “Our leadership has chosen not to include that, so there has been no community-level referendums.
“There has not been opportunity for community to address all of our concerns and have them inputted in these agreements and addressed in a meaningful way.”
She said her requests to see the Impact Benefit Agreement between Benga Mining Ltd. and the Blood Tribe have been ignored and adds she’s heard the issue is widespread in many of the Blackfoot Confederacy nations.
“What is happening on the Blood Tribe is being echoed in all of these various communities of people not knowing that this is even going on,” Calf Robe said.
Siksika Nation member Wacey Little Light said he was shocked to find out about the coal mine decision when it was beginning the federal hearing process, several years after consultation with Indigenous leaders began.
“It’s pretty disheartening,” Little Light said. “Just digging even a little bit and seeing that there’s just a whole bunch of stuff going on behind the scenes without anybody’s knowledge.”
Calf Robe and Little Light are working to spread the news and are creating a letter template addressed to multiple government officials.
“People are very concerned and don’t want these projects,” Calf Robe said. “So why is it being endorsed by our leadership?”
A release from Blood Tribe chief and council outlines the agreement terms with Benga Mining. It clarifies that they hold no veto power over the project, but have taken the opportunity to negotiate terms such as ongoing consultation, ongoing reclamation of the land, protection of culturally significant sites and yearly funds directed from the mine to the Blood Tribe community.
The release adds that the project will occur on an existing mine site which is “already disturbed.”
Blood Tribe officials did not grant an interview for comment specifically on the community’s concerns, but did release a new statement on November 21 regarding their negotiations with Benga.
Calf Robe said with Blood Tribe elections underway, now is the time for community members to think carefully about how their concerns are being received and represented.
“Where environmental organizations come in, they’re concerned about environmental protection, and where fisheries are coming in, they’re concerned about fish,” she continued. “What we’re saying is that by protecting Aboriginal title to land, we’re protecting all of those things and the people, which is where this community support is so important.”