A study released in July 2014 by the University of Manitoba found “wild-caught foods in northern Alberta have higher-than-normal levels of pollutants the study associates with oil sands production, but First Nations are already shifting away from their traditional diets out of fears over contamination.” The report raised health concerns about replacing traditional foods with processed imports.
And Canadian government research published earlier this year has confirmed that toxic chemicals from tar sands production are seeping into the Athabasca River.
Violet Clarke says the industry has destroyed even the possibility of their traditional lifestyle. She says that forest clearing and the roar of processing plants have scared away moose. Willow Lake’s pike and walleye have absorbed high levels of mercury into their flesh. She’s heard stories of deformed fish. Schindler says there are scientific studies suggesting that the region has an excessive number of fish that are misshapen. He says that, even if [such fish] aren’t too polluted to eat, no white merchant could sell them in a supermarket. Why should [Alberta’s native] people eat them with lesions and tumors?” “Now we just have to go to the store and buy our meat,” says Clarke. “We are seeing the end of our livelihood.”
Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee Dan Grossman’s project: The Big Picture: Alberta’s Oil Sands. http://bit.ly/albertatarsands