Ermineskin Resource Development: connecting industry with the Ermineskin Cree Nation
Ermineskin Resource Development works to create employment, business opportunities,
training programs and contracting, all while ensuring oil and gas companies respect the
needs, traditions and way of life of the Ermineskin Cree Nation.
Trevor Saulteaux is the Vice President and Operations Manager of the First Nation owned
and operated company. In an exclusive interview with The Canadian Business Quarterly, Mr
Saulteaux details how organization, legislation and documentation enables the company to
create partnerships that benefit both industry and First Nations people.
Starting a company
The need for a body like Ermineskin Resource Development arose when Consultation
Director, Carol Wildcat, began noticing opportunities from her position as first point of
contact between the nation and industry. “If any oil and gas or pipelines were in our territory,
all over Alberta, or within our reserve, they had to consult with Carol,” Mr. Saulteaux said.
“We both worked with industry, she as first point of contact and I as the second phase of her
strategy. She requested from our Chief and Council that we join forces, and from that point
we opened up our Economic Development offices.”
I made sure that the company had the proper qualifications within industry to qualify as a
business-based company. I helped start, and gave us the grounds to use the consultation to
do negotiations and talks for traditional territory and any business opportunities.
When the business began in 2009, the Alberta government was not initially proactive in
notifying the Ermineskin Cree Nation of upcoming opportunities. Fortunately, Carol Wildcat
was able to implement a successful strategy to declare intervener status from the beginning
of any buildings or infrastructural changes taking place on the land in which the nation hunts,
picks berries and produces medicines. The result was that a negotiation process between oil
and gas companies and the Ermineskin Cree Nation became vital to the progression of any
operations in the area.
The Ermineskin nation creates an intervener status, which forces the company to come to
us and listen to what we have to say. Then after Carol has completed her negotiations she
allows the company to add that checkmark to their consultation obligations.”
Ermineskin Resource Development
As a main producer of oil and gas, the Ermineskin Cree Nation is able to quickly and reliably
compare the needs of oil and gas companies with its own land uses.
“Our area is rich in resources. But if it’s on our land, we have an approach that you’re in our
backyard’, and as such you have to accommodate our opinions and requests. We always do
it professionally and come up with a good opportunity that fits both [the business’] needs and
One of Ermineskin Resource Development’s main objectives is to provide employment
opportunities for its population of 4,500. “We don’t want to have to explain to our members
when they look at their backyards and see that somebody who lives two hours away is doing
the work that they could be doing.
Companies currently conducting work in the area include ATCO, Canadian Natural
Resources and Imperial Oil. The work is channeled through Ermineskin Resource
Development as an incorporated company with a limited partnership agreement with the
Ermineskin Cree Nation. Operating in this way both reduces risks and liability to the First
Nation, and allows the company to partner with larger firms in order to manage projects too
big to approach on its own.
We’re a small First Nation and a small company, so we partner with companies which have
experience with First Nation and who are accommodating in making sure that everyone is
happy. They hire our people, we get subcontracting opportunities, and they are made more
competitive in their contracting. We make sure that these companies are well known and
that we happily work with these companies, and they give us a revenue stream, training and
Reclamation at Pigeon Lake
Ermineskin Resource Development’s recent work with the Pigeon Lake Reclamation
Program is a perfect example of its efficacy. The 10 to 15-year project with Imperial Oil is
aimed at cleaning up the lake and surrounding area. The company’s entry into the project
involved negotiations which would lead to the inclusion of many First Nations employees.
We negotiated that all the work is done by the First Nation for this ten-year project. That
started two years ago, along with two other First Nation companies doing reclamation and
remediation. We started out with some reclamation off-reserve, which we were very happy to
do. We cleaned up a site with contaminated soil, loading the soil on trucks to be cleaned or
disposed of properly, and bringing back clean soil.
With the process of reclamation, we also bring in a First Nation aspect. With reclamation,
you are putting that land back to its natural state, but that’s often within what western
science deems necessary. We add in a traditional way of looking at it, some traditional
medicines we want to harvest and grow are considered, some plants and trees or things
which attract wildlife to restore hunting and trapping areas are also included.
Mr. Saulteaux explains that the company is always looking to diversify, and posits that as it
grows and is able to find more and larger opportunities, its ability to best serve both First
Nation people and oil and gas companies will become better and more efficient.
We do business to create more business. We want to impress [the businesses we work
with] and leave both parties happy at the end of the day.”
Find out more about Ermineskin Cree Nation by visiting: www.ermineskin.ca.