West Fraser works with more than 100 Indigenous communities across Western Canada and aims to have long-term, respectful relationships with the people who live in the areas where we operate. It means respecting traditional rights, having open discussions about our activities, and striving to provide equitable access to employment and other contracts.
Some of that work includes supporting programs such as the Outland Youth Employment Program and working on projects such as the Cardinal River Campground. It also means recognizing culturally significant events such as National Indigenous Peoples Day. On June 21, Canadians celebrated the heritage, diverse cultures, and achievements of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. Here’s a highlight of some of our Company’s celebrations.
Sundre Division and the Stoney-Nakoda Nation
At the Sundre Division, the local Stoney-Nakoda Nation led a pipe ceremony on June 23 to launch the summer forest operations. It was set up by Barry Wesley, a Stoney consultation representative, with two elders from the Bighorn Reserve and a helper leading the event.
First, it started with smudging to cleanse the mind, body, and spirit. Both elders had a pipe for the smudging, and there were hand drums and offerings. Then, they presented four prints: white for the mind, yellow for the sun, green for nature, and red for the blood of the people.
Leo Fagnan, a planning superintendent with West Fraser, asked for safe and successful forest operations, and the group took part in several prayers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, smoking from the pipe was optional, and the group also passed around blueberries to share. In the end, the group sang four songs, and West Fraser employees were asked to watch out for springs and other culturally significant areas and items.
Eugene Burnstick is an Aboriginal Community Engagement Coordinator with West Fraser and is from the Paul First Nation which is located west of the City of Edmonton.
“The ceremony had put everyone in excellent spirits as the purpose of it was to connect with the creator. It was good to see West Fraser staff connecting with the local community and respecting the beliefs and participating in the ceremony,” says Eugene.
Sundre Forest Products
A couple of days before the pipe ceremony, in Rocky Mountain House Alberta, the Sundre division was taking part in another event. The Rocky Mountain House Native Friendship Centre Society (RNFCS) hosted a parade, barbeque, and a fireworks show to celebrate. West Fraser employees Al Kurney and Eugene Burnstick took part in the ceremony, and our Company also made a donation to support the celebration. West Fraser has a long-term relationship with RNFCS; the Centre provides programs for off-reserve youth and others with life challenges.
Slave Lake and the Cree People (Nehiyawak)
At our Slave Lake Veneer facility, there was a Tipi teaching ceremony on June 22. From the Cree (Nehiyawak) Nation, Elder Ross Giroux, tipi teaching presenter Denny Giroux and his son Kage led the event. They showed how tipis are set up and why they are culturally significant to Indigenous people.
Doug Gladue, who organized the Tipi teachings, is a community engagement coordinator for West Fraser’s North Central Woodlands out of the Slave Lake office. “There was certainly a lot of cultural reflection that were shared about the Indigenous cultural teaching that was presented by Elder Ross and Denny and young Kage. Their teachings were passed on by their Indigenous mentors, just as it was when I was growing up. I felt it was important to share the cultural teachings of the Indigenous peoples where West Fraser operates in.”
West Fraser continues to support Indigenous peoples and their communities as they come together to celebrate their culture, their songs, dance, and the stories they share with us.
At the end of the ceremony, Doug took this photo in Slave Lake: a triple rainbow to finish the day.