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Five Indigenous Construction Participation Program (ICPP) teams gathered in downtown Calgary recently to tour the TC Energy corporate office and learn from past participants who have now become environmental inspectors.


The day started with a tour of TC Energy’s control room, which included information on the control centers, their locations in North America, shutdowns, and fail-safes for potential issues in TC Energy’s network of pipelines and facilities. Next, the ICPP teams got to know each other, by presenting about themselves, and meet some of the support personnel from the TC Energy office over lunch. “It was a good way for the field and office teams to understand one another’s role and the value of the program,” stated Dina Sutherland, ICPP Program Manager.


At the end of the day, two past ICPP participants, who have gone on to be environmental inspectors, told the group how they advanced and became environmental inspectors. “Our trip to the TC Energy office and being able to meet each of the other crews was an awesome experience. I have already learned so much throughout this season, but being able to hear from past ICPP participants about how they became environmental inspectors was definitely the highlight of the trip. I learned from them that you can never have enough education, that you will always be learning and the only one stopping you from succeeding is yourself,” explained Makayla Beck, Lundbreck ICPP participant from the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.


TC Energy’s ICPP facilitates Indigenous environmental monitoring with on-the-job training. Two objectives of the program are to provide opportunities for Indigenous community members to build practical understanding of NGTL’s construction activities and mitigation measures and facilitate Indigenous employment and training opportunities. “The Indigenous Construction Participation Program (ICPP) offers a unique opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and experience in pipeline construction. The program's emphasis on environmental considerations and mitigation measures stood out. By combining my traditional knowledge with industry best practices, the ICPP can provide a truly enriching experience. Don't just be a passenger, participate by taking notes, photos and asking questions to maximize your progress. The ICPP can be a stepping stone toward a brighter future by combining traditional knowledge with modern environmental practices during pipeline construction,” stated Gary Calliou, past ICPP Participant who is now an Environmental Inspector.


"You need to be confident and determined to work hard, and to invest time and money into yourself. In years to come I hope to see one of you up here presenting on your experience of becoming an Environmental Inspector." Leanna Willier, past ICPP participant who is now an Environmental Inspector.

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Truth and Reconciliation Day, or Orange Shirt Day, is about growing awareness for the people, families and communities impacted by the residential school system. “September 30th is a day to recognize what happened, put it in the past and start healing. It is encouraged that non-Indigenous people attend something like the powwow in a local First Nation community as this is a way to start the reconciliation process,” stated Bernadette, an Indigenous Construction Participation Program (ICPP) participant and a ?aq’am community member. Everyone can support reconciliation every day by learning, by caring and by taking action.


The ICPP teams were urged to take time to honour September 30th and attend community events. One team travelled to the ?aq’am community to attend a powwow ceremony in the spirit of truth and reconciliation. “We observed the grand entry, which was quite impressive because of the attention to detail on all the regalia and the energy that goes into the drumming and dancing, even the young children got involved. It was definitely a highlight of my experiences as a coordinator,” explained Bill Phillips, ICPP Coordinator. 25 to 30 people came forward that were affected by residential schools and introduced themselves; Bernadette was one of those brave people. She attended the St Mary's residential school until it shut it down in 1970.


The team also stopped at a local fall fair where an ?aq’am community member, who lost their house in this summer’s forest fires, was selling Indian Tacos and fry bread. The coordinator tried his first Indian Taco and thought it was great! ?aq’am is a community that had seven houses burn from the summer forest fires. “We drove to the community on Saturday, after the powwow, and there were lots of areas (land and trees) burned in addition to the seven houses that were destroyed,” explained Bill.


The other ICPP team attended a pipe offering officiated by an Elder of the Horn Society. Guest speakers shared their stories of residential schools and systemic racism. The team then attended a powwow and market. The day prior, the contractor hosted a lunch and had a video link to a presentation by Dr. Lana Potts, who told her story about being orphaned as a young woman with younger siblings and how it was like winning the lottery when she received a scholarship. She also talked about the racism and ridicule she faced even after receiving her medical practitioner's license and the challenges of opening a medical clinic in her home nation of Piikani. She has held many positions, including three terms on the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada board. It was an inspirational presentation.



“We have to recognize and navigate the darkness before we can see the light.” Shayla Stonechild

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People are a company’s biggest asset and providing time for teams to get together and connect with one another is a key element to success. Recently, an ICPP crew visited the Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre near Fort Macleod, Alberta, one of the oldest and largest buffalo jump sites in North America, to spend time together while learning about key Indigenous history in the area.


Head Smashed In was used for killing buffalo by generations of Indigenous people for approximately 6 000 years, which is a testament to both the ideal conditions for buffalo jumping and the skill of the hunters who learned to exploit the natural landscape and their understanding of bison behaviour despite the lack of complex weapons. “The 18 metre cliff facing east, opposite the prevailing winds, prevented bison from smelling the kill site. A large basin of grassland west of the cliff regularly attracted large herds of bison. Over a period of days they could be lured towards the precipice to their deaths. The large stretch of prairie immediately below the cliff provided a source of fresh water and shelter for camping, butchering and processing activities.”(Buffalo Tracks, p.3). The jump was last used 150 years ago when it was no longer needed due to the introduction of guns and horses as a means of hunting.

Not only is Head Smashed In culturally important as a hunting ground but also because of the way its history has been verbally shared through storytelling by Indigenous elders. Storytelling for Indigenous cultures is a way to share history and instill knowledge. Storytellers are trained and are known as knowledge keepers. Head Smashed In is recognized by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), which puts it in the same category of importance as Machu Picchu in Peru, the Taj Mahal in India, and the Pyramid fields of Egypt. Who knew Alberta had such rich history!?!?

Buffalo Tracks - About The Jump! | Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (headsmashedin.ca)


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