Many may not know what Orange shirt day is and also what is happening in regards to two programs (REDEVELOP challenge and NIYAK) being offered through five Universities across Canada in regard to their work with Indigenous people.

We wanted to share this because to develop the oilsands we need to partner with Indigenous communities and work together. There are about 23,000 Indigenous peoples from 18 First Nations and 6 Métis settlements that live in the oil sands region in northeast Alberta (Government of Canada, 2016).


On September 30, each year we have Orange Shirt Day.

It is called Orange Shirt Day because of residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad’s account of being stripped naked and her new orange shirt, which was bought by her grandmother, being taken away from her and never returned. It symbolizes how the residential school took away the Indigenous identity of its students (Laanala, 2016).

This day honours residential school survivors and it brings awareness to what happened in residential schools and how the residential school system has affected Indigenous cultures (Scotiabank, 2020). It is meant to promote discussions to further the process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons (Scotiabank, 2020).

Why relationships with Indigenous persons are important for oil and gas

Many in the oil and gas industry consider natural resource development to be linked to the broader Canadian reconciliation process. Responsible resource development supports reconciliation and Indigenous self-determination by supporting the growth of sustainable Indigenous economies (CAPP, 2018).

We need to recognize that many Indigenous communities have built a prosperous future by working with the oil and gas industry and we need to recognize Indigenous communities as one of our major stakeholders (CAPP, 2018).

Aboriginal groups that have accepted oil and gas insist that substantial efforts be made to manage environmental risks and to involve them in project planning and decision making (Eyford, 2013).

We need to continue to build our relationship with Indigenous persons and we are doing that through programs like the REDEVELOP Challenge


The following information was taken from the REDEVELOP website (2020).

This program trains graduate students to work across disciplines, distance, and cultures.

It integrates technical expertise with training in communication, conflict resolution, project management and Indigenous relations, we prepare our graduates for a changing workforce.

Graduate students receive a REDEVELOP Certificate and Indigenous Relations Training.

It is a collaboration of five members on an Advisory Committee, 11 researchers from five different universities, and it is funded by the Natural Sciences and Research Council of Canada (NSERC). All of this in itself is a great feat that takes an amazing amount of coordination. The five universities participating are:

  • University of Calgary
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Waterloo
  • Western University

We need to thank the following for putting this all together:

Advisory Committee

Steve Saddleback, Co-chair of the REDEVELOP Advisory Committee, Director of the National Energy Business Centre of Excellence (NEBCE) at the Indian Resource Council of Canada (IRC), and Member of Treaty 6 from the Samson Cree Nation, located in Maskwacis, AB

André Buret, Ph.D., Co-chair of the REDEVELOP Advisory Committee and Professor & Assoc., VP Research in the Biological Sciences Department, University of Calgary

Jérôme Marty, Ph.D., Project Director at the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA), based in Ottawa

Sara Hastings-Simon, Ph.D., Payne Institute Public Policy, University of Calgary Research Fellow, Physics

Fiona Salkie, Director of Continuation & Validation Analysis, PNG Tenure Operations, Alberta Department of Energy


David Eaton, Geoscience, University of Calgary, Professor, NSERC/Chevron IRC in Microseismic System Dynamics and CREATE REDEVELOP Chair

Shengnan (Nancy) Chen, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Calgary, Associate Professor

Christopher Clarkson, Geoscience, University of Calgary, Professor and Assoc. Professor in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, 2017 ASTech Award Winner for Outstanding Achievement in Applied Technology & Innovation

Amin Ghanizadeh, Researcher in the University of Calgary Geoscience Department, who has made a consistent contribution to the program on behalf of Christopher Clarkson

Maurice Dusseault, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo, Professor and Advisor in energy development to almost every province in Canada

Giovanni Grasselli, Civil Engineering, University of Toronto, Professor, Foundation CMG Research Chair - Fundamental Petroleum Rock Physics and Rock Mechanics

Bernhard Mayer, Geoscience, University of Calgary, Professor

Karlis Muehlenbachs, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Professor

Jeffrey Priest, Civil Engineering, University of Calgary, Professor and CRC Tier II Chair in Geomechanics of Gas Hydrates

Mirko Van der Baan, Physics, University of Alberta, Professor and 2017 Honorary Lecturer (North America) for the Society of Exploration Geophysicists

Jennifer Winter, Economics and School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, Assistant Professor and Scientific Director, Energy and Environmental Policy

Thomas O'Neill, Psychology, University of Calgary, Associate Professor and REDEVELOP Collaborator

Celia Kennedy, Geoscience, University of Calgary, Program Manager of REDEVELOP

And most importantly the graduate students at the five universities who voluntarily take this REDEVELOP Challenge and make this all happen.

The Challenge

Each team is composed of members from different universities, who come from different disciplines that research a potential issue dealing with low carbon energy.

NIYAK – sister program to REDEVELOP

NIYAK is a new mentorship pipeline project that evolved from REDEVELOP program in collaboration with the Sucker Creek First Nation (SCFN), which is located on the southwestern shore of Lesser Slave Lake at Enilda.

The REDEVELOP collaborated with Chief Badger and the SCFN community despite all that has been happening around us with COVID-19, significant flood damage last spring, and shutdowns. This is a testament of the passion the REDEVELOP and Indigenous have regarding this initiative.

They started with a name that encapsulates their goal, while fostering Indigenous identity. NIYAK in the Cree language means "for the future.” It is also an acronym for Network for Indigenous Youth Academic Knowledge.

In early September, the REDEVELOP team visited the community for a full week, starting with a Talking Circle attended by: Dave Eaton, Celia Kennedy, M.Sc. student mentors, Shelley Alexander and Evangeline Eldridge, Jim Badger (Chief of the SCFN), Emily Calliou (Environmental Officer), Ryan Badger (Water Treatment Manager), and 5 elders.

The purpose of NIYAK is to build relationships, remove barriers, help youth navigate post-secondary career paths in STEM, and integrate traditional knowledge with western scientific methods.

To achieve this, NIYAK's approach is to assist a community with an environmental or technical problem using scientific expertise so that the applicability of STEM training can be:

  1. Demonstrated to local youth in a meaningful way
  2. Enhanced by traditional knowledge from the elders
  3. Shared with the community in a transparent and engaging way.

The SCFN project includes a 3-year water quality study of the Lesser Slave Lake, involving students at the graduate, undergraduate and high school levels. NIYAK's collaborative reach is extensive, involving the University of Alberta, Mount Royal University, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, and the Indian Resource Council (IRC).

The Future

Every time I see the presentations of those taking part in the REDEVELOP Challenge, it is a big wow because of the expertise, the energy and the drive of these students.

It is incredible work that you would see in any major oil company and the graduates of the program return to help those who are now taking it. It says a lot when students return to help.

Our future is much brighter than we believe it is, because of the incredible students and young people studying in university. They have gone through so much and this has allowed them to be mature beyond their years.

With programs like REDEVELOP and NIYAK the world is waking up from history (Edwards, 1990). Our perspectives are changing, and doors are opening to those who never dreamt they could be a scientist.

For many of these young people they need help to build a better tomorrow and they need guidance to build the foundation and we encourage everyone to join the CSEG Mentorship, partake in the Rundle Club activities at the University of Calgary or the student activities in the universities that are in the communities you live in such as UAGS at the University of Alberta, be a part of the CSEG Geophysical Industrial Field Trip (GIFT), or CSEG Foundation group, be a part of REDEVELOP or NIYAK, reach out to someone struggling because by building up the younger generation we are building ourselves up and we are making a much better tomorrow.



About the Author(s)

Brian Wm. Schulte attended The University of Calgary graduating in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science in Geology and a minor in Geophysics. Brian has worked in seismic processing, acquisition, interpretation, rock physics, and petro-physics.  Some of the companies he worked for are: Gale-Horizon, Schlumberger, Vastar (division of Arco), BP, Explora Seismic Processing (ESP), Geokinetics, Talisman Energy Inc., and Repsol.  Brian also served as an Instructor of Petroleum Engineering Technology at Houston Community College-NE Energy Institute and made outstanding contributions as a member of the Program Industry Advisory Committee that lead to several program recognitions and students’ successes. Brian is working at his own consulting company Schiefer Reservoir Consulting.


CAPP, 2018, Canada’s Oil and Natural Gas Industry and Indigenous Peoples Work Toward Shared Prosperity: CAPP Report. CAPP,

Edwards, M., 1990, Right here, right now. Recorded at Matrix Studios and Ezee Studios in London.

Eyford, D.R., 2013, Forging Partnerships Building Relationships. NRCAN,

Government of Canada, 2016, Oil Sands: Indigenous peoples. Government of Canada,

Laanala, M., 2016, Orange Shirt Day: How Phyllis Webstad's 1st day at residential school inspired a movement. CBC News,

REDEVELOP, 2020, Training in a Time of Change. REDEVELOP,

Scotiabank, 2020, Orange Shirt Day and the road to reconciliation. Scotiabank,


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