Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
Over the past five decades, the Métis of northeastern Alberta have experienced dramatic socio-economic, political, and cultural transformation as a result of the large-scale development of oil sands resources. Despite millions of dollars spent on impact assessments in northeastern Alberta over the past decades, however, this radical transformation to the culture and way of life of the Métis has gone largely unassessed, unmitigated, and uncompensated. While several recent studies have highlighted the inconsistent methodologies and unreliable findings of impact assessments in Alberta’s oil sands, this paper contends that more than a question of methodological rigor, the deficiencies in the assessment of impacts to the Métis are fundamentally a question of power relations. What questions are asked, what methods are used, and what knowledge is considered valid reflect distributions of power over the oil sands region and in turn legitimate and reinforce the real-world outcomes of resource extraction. The paper concludes with reflections on whether Métis-led impact assessments may be able to provide a more accurate and complete picture of the impacts of more than 50 years of oil sands development and support more equitable outcomes.