Exploring Co-Reclamation: Gesturing Towards Intercultural Collaboration and the Renewal of Indigenous Cultural Landscapes after Oil Sands Extraction in the Fort McKay First Nation Traditional Territory, Treaty 8, Alberta, Canada

Christine Daly
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The sustainability of a landscape and its host community post-mining depends on careful and
effective mine closure and reclamation planning. Such planning has the potential to support the renewal
of cultural landscapes and to re-establish traditional land use capability on reclaimed lands for affected
Indigenous communities to exercise Indigenous and Treaty Rights within their traditional territories.
A collaborative approach to mine closure and reclamation, termed “co-reclamation”, was conceived and
evaluated by academic researchers and Fort McKay First Nation (Fort McKay) staff, representatives, and
community members who are hosting oil sands projects on their traditional territory in Treaty 8, Alberta,
Canada. An oil sands company participated in early portions of the study. The aim of this dissertation was
to explore a participatory and inclusive approach to mine closure and reclamation of lands disturbed by
oil sands activities in the Fort McKay Traditional Territory to support the renewal of cultural landscapes
capable of supporting Fort McKay’s traditional uses. The study applied a “Two-Roads Approach”, which
is an ethnoecological framework, to elevate Fort McKay’s voices, research inquiries, knowledge system,
and ways of working throughout the study.
The people of Fort McKay have been living off the land for many generations. The sustainability
of their culture is rooted in their traditional lands and waters which supply food and other resources for
subsistence activities and a connection to their community, history, traditions, knowledge, and
spirituality. The Two-Roads ethnoecological framework supported an examination of the Fort McKay
road whereby mine closure and reclamation processes were explored and developed based on Fort
McKay’s understanding of their traditional lands, waters, and aspects from their placed-based knowledge
system. Furthermore, the Two-Roads Approach enabled the braiding of scientific and Indigenous
perspectives and knowledges into co-created research products. This dissertation presents the following
emergent intercultural mine closure and reclamation tools, approaches, and insights: consultation,
engagement, and mine closure good practices; an indigenized code of conduct; traditional Indigenous
cultural methods for creating a shared closure vision; a shared First Nation-industry aspirational story - te
mamano aski ki kakio asiniwak (Cree) / ɂeła ɂeghdalaı́ da niha tuha (Dënesuliné) / working together for
the betterment of our people and land (English); a subset of the traditional use plants, wildlife, birds,
amphibians, and fish taxa which are important to Fort McKay; insights from a systematic review of
traditional land use planning in mine closure and reclamation at seven oil sands projects; and a TwoRoads Reconciliation & Reclamation Framework to assist oil sands operators and Canadian Provincial
Government agencies with ethical intercultural dialogue and meaningful engagement with Fort McKay on
mine closure and reclamation of their traditional territory. These research products illuminate steps forward in problem solving towards reclamation as an act of reconciliation and a more just and equitable
closure landscape with mutual benefits for all.