‘We’re better partners than we are fighting in the courts,’ says Albertan Stephen Buffalo, CEO of the Indian Resource Council
Growing up on Canada’s richest First Nations reserve was a tough lesson for Stephen Buffalo. Despite hundreds of millions of petro-dollars gushing into his hometown, Hobbema (as the central Alberta community was called at the time), grifters and misery made the place a hellhole.
And if this sounds like the Hollywood film Killers of the Flower Moon, a non-fiction drama about the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma after oil was discovered on their reserve, Stephen Buffalo, now 51, agrees the movie triggered not-so-pleasant memories.
“We had oil wells all around us; pump jacks all around us. I call them the drainage wells,” he recalls. “They are just off the reserve. We have one or two on reserve, but there’s 40 wells sucking the reservoir dry. The government was supposed to protect us; they never did.
“Of course, the industry took advantage when they could,” he chuckles, “but at the end of the day, we learned a valuable lesson. And our nations have better capacity and are more aggressive to seek business opportunities — rather than just sitting back, waiting for the government to do it.”