An American Indian's Tragic Account Of How The Oil Boom Changed His Town

canada aboriginalCanadian aboriginals performed traditional dances during the 2010 Olympics.

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The oldest story in modern American history—of the white man taking land from the natives—is still happening.The Globe And Mail’s Arno Kopecky tells a poignant story of four Achuar Indians from the Peruvian Amazon coming to Fort McMurray, Canada to protest drilling in their territory by a Canadian company. While in Canada, the Achuar Indians visited a Cree reservation located near oil. The Cree offered a sad account of the oil boom:

“You know how they say ‘big money, big problems’?” said Mr. Bird, a father of 10 with a boxer’s build and a shaven head, after the introductions. “That’s what happened here. Fifteen years ago, when there were only two oil plants, moose would wander into the front yard and the lake was full of fish. Now, there are 20 oil plants and everyone has a job, but there are no more fish in the lakes and we haven’t seen a moose here in years.”

“How do you eat?”

“We go to the store.”

“Has your economic situation improved?”

“Money is there,” Mr. Bird said, “but we fight over it non-stop. … Nobody trusts each other.”

“Do your children get a better education?”

“Good enough to work for the oil companies.”

Native displacement is one dark side of Canada’s oil sands. So is the resource curse seen in miniature on the Indian reservation of the economy becoming overly reliant on oil. But once again the demand for resources outweighs the costs.

See our exclusive aerial pictures of the gigantic oil sand mines >

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