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Council to request inquiry into Moccasin Flats

Last Updated Jul 11, 2018 at 2:40 pm MDT

PHOTO. Supplied. An archival photo of the 1970s Moccasin Flats settlement and the Syncrude Towers.

Council held a special meeting on Tuesday, July 10 to allow for a lengthy discussion on Moccasin Flats after two brothers set up a Teepee along the Athabasca river in protest. 

Moccasin Flats is an area of land at the confluence of the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers in Fort McMurray known as a seasonal and important gathering place for Indigenous peoples.

On about Jan. 22, 1979 it is said that Indigenous residents of Moccasin Flats were invited to a meeting when their houses were bulldozed and then later burned. It is not known who ordered the bulldozing and there are no municipal documents around the event. At the time the land was owned by Northward Developments, a development arm of Syncrude.

Many years later, City council began addressing the Truth and Reconcilation Commission, at the Feb. 21, 2017 meeting and Gale Gallupe, President of the Fort McMurray Métis Local 1935, spoke to the TRC agenda item and raised the issue of Moccasin Flats.

In October of 2017 mayoralty candidates spoke to support for a public inquiry regarding Moccasin Flats.

The Fort McMurray Métis announced on April 23, that they have commissioned their second report to: “ . . examine the cultural history and significance of Moccasin Flats.”

With many delegates recalling oral stories about either themselves or relatives witnessing the event and extensive researching providing evidence that many Indigenous people were forced to move from the land, the options available to the RMWB to resolve the concerns are an apology or a public inquiry.

Marilyn Buffalo, former president of the Nistawoyou Friendship Centre, who lived near Moccasin Flats says its a step towards reconciliation.

“A public inquiry is long overdue, many of the elders that were familiar at the time have passed on,” said Buffalo. “In order for Fort McMurray to move toward a healing process they have to get all the parties to come in and testify.”

Council has voted to have the Municipality support and collaborate with the Indigenous community of Wood Buffalo to reconcile Moccasin Flats in a manner that is meaningful to all that have been impacted by the events which took place and to have the Municipality call on the Government of Alberta to conduct a public inquiry into Moccasin Flats.