Eriel Tchekwie Deranger is a Dene Indigenous activist and member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) of Northern Alberta, Canada. Eriel is currently employed as the Tar Sands Campaign and Communication Coordinator for ACFN. Her work focuses on creating greater awareness about the impacts of the Alberta Tar Sands and demanding that all levels of government and the private sector fully implement the unique Indigenous rights her people hold as described by Treaty 8, and the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples.
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is currently suing Shell Canada for unmet Tar Sands Impact Benefit agreements, and is challenging Shell’s application for permits to build new tar sands projects. Shell is currently one of the largest tar sands operators. The newly proposed projects would contribute to further erosion of the fragile ecosystems, critical wildlife habitat, and Indigenous territory in Northern Alberta.
Eriel is a wife and mother of two. She comes from a family that has long battled industrial and sometimes illegal activities on their traditional and treaty lands.
Crystal feels it is her obligation as a mother to protect her land and culture for her children and future generations. She utilizes her formal academic training and what knowledge she has to articulate the direct exploitation of the oil sands, whilst addressing the environmental racism the Government of Canada imposes on First Nations people in the name of resource extraction. “We have come to a point where we have to not be afraid of holding the Canadian government accountable for our inherent treaty rights – our birthrights, and their obligation to uphold them as defined in Section 35 of the Canadian constitution. This Government does not get to pick the pieces of the law it likes and which one’s it does not,” she exclaims.
Although the Beaver Lake Cree’s rights to hunt and fish for all time are enshrined in Treaty 6, their land is being usurped by the oil sands industry. The inherent right of the Beaver Lake Cree to sustain themselves is affected by ecosystem destruction, violating their Constitutionally protected rights, and giving Treaty title holders grounds to sue. Beaver Lake Cree sued the Canadian government in 2008, citing over 17,000 Treaty Rights violations and infringements. The case is winnable. The law is clearly on the side of First Nations. The case is currently being carried forward by the Beaver Lake Cree’s leadership, and Crystal uses this as one example of how First Nations people can assert their rights whilst offering folks a solution.
Garth Lenz - an international award winning environmental photojournalist.
For over 20 years, Garth Lenz has produced images of threatened wilderness and industrial impacts which have received major international awards appeared in the world's leading publications and been exhibited worldwide. He has been invited to address major corporations, government bodies, and educational institutions including the European Parliament, Canadian Senate, The New York Times, Nippon Telephone and Telegraph, Oxford and Cambridge universities. His recent TED talk, The True Cost of Oil, has received over 800,000 views. His exhibit on the same subject has been recently hosted by the G2 Gallery in Los Angeles, the Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn, and at the Aperture Foundation Gallery in New York. Lenz is one of only 60 photographers to be named a Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. To learn more about his work, please visit www.garthlenz.com