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Just transition means returning Indigenous land – but that might look different than you think – briarpatch

Every time there is a new direct action against a pipeline, social media posts pop up on my timeline, talking about how the only way to save the planet is to return the land to Indigenous peoples.

But, I wonder, do we owe non-Indigenous people saving?

As nêhiyaw legal scholar Sylvia McAdam writes in her book Nationhood Interrupted: Revitalizing nêhiyaw Legal Systems, when nêhiyawak write or speak about the return of our territories, “‘Give it back’ means to restore the livelihood, demonstrate respect for what is shared – the land – by making things right through compensation, restoration of freedom, dignity, and livelihood.”

As someone who grew up in Alberta, surrounded by the effects, benefits, and culture of oil extraction, it is difficult for me to think about Alberta ever transitioning to a carbon neutral economy. Life in Alberta – even Indigenous life – is so saturated with the effects of the oil industry that I have attended round dances sponsored by oil companies. How distressing to think about renewing our obligations and relationships to each other and the land with a meal sponsored by a corporation that is quickly making that land uninhabitable. I look at a map of my territory with the pipelines superimposed, the lines criss-crossing our hunting grounds, lands from which ingredients of that feast meal were sourced.

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