As a “band” under the Indian Act, we have eight Reserves set aside for our use and enjoyment under the Indian Act: Chipewyan 201, Chipewyan 201A, Chipewyan 201B, Chipewyan 201C, Chipewyan 201D, Chipewyan 201E, Chipewyan 201F, and Chipewyan 201G. Our reserve lands are located on the south shore of Lake Athabasca, on the Athabasca Delta, and on the Athabasca River.
We have a total registered population of approximately 1200 people. Approximately one third of our membership lives in Fort Chipewyan, a large percentage live in Fort McMurray, and some in Fort McKay and Fort Smith, NWT. The remainder are scattered throughout Alberta, Canada and the world.
ACFN has always had stable leadership. After Treaty 8 was signed, ACFN selected its representatives for lifetime appointment. Since 1983, ACFN has followed the custom electoral system under the Indian Act. In addition to the Chief, our Council consists of four councillors. A council of ACFN Elders, representing the main family groups within ACFN, provides the elected leadership with the support of traditional customary governance.
ACFN's Elders Council was formed 15 years ago. Led by chair person Pat Marcel, there are currently 12 members that sit on the committee. The Elders Council works with Chief & Council by accompanying them to meetings, acting as their representatives, and reporting information back to the First Nation. In addition, ACFN's Elders Council assists the IRC department with their industry advisory committees. Each advisory committee has two elder representatives on a committee.
Map of Protection Area
The 2010 Elders Declaration was created to guide the ACFN in defining a protection zone north of the Firebag River following the southern boundary of the Poplar Point Homelands, an area critical to ensuring ACFN’s future generations can continue their culture and traditional way of life.
The ACFN have presented the boundaries and map to both the federal and provincial government in response to proposed land use policies and proposed project development.
Despite this position, new projects and land use policies are being approved without proper consultation or demonstrated respect of ACFN traditional territory and rights to co-managements as defined by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples.
In recent years the ACFN have launched multiple legal motions against government and industry asserting violations of Treaty and cultural rights.
Current development and land management in the Treaty 8 territory of north-eastern Alberta has led to the cumulative removal of lands, wildlife and fish habitat as well as the destruction of ecological, aesthetic and sensory systems. This consequently affects constitutionally protected Treaty Rights of First Nations in the region who are experiencing the loss of continued use of traditional lands and territory for the purposes of hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering in Canada.
Canada and Alberta environmental protection laws and legislation have been watered down through numerous Bills and Acts passed in recent years. The last remaining stronghold for challenging the mismanagement and unsustainable development lies within the rights and title held by First Nations peoples.
The ACFN legal challenges focus on defending culture, the lands required to exercise Treaty and Aboriginal Rights, and the resources associated with those rights (i.e. water, old growth forest, endangered species like bison and caribou).