A green pilot project is aimed at improving the environmental conditions of landfills in Indigenous communities.
Initiated by Eva John-Gladue, Operations Manager of Tribal Chiefs Employment and Training Services Association (TCETSA), Tribal Chiefs is currently delivering a comprehensive six month Waste Management Training Program where students will learn green practices to then improve the landfills in First Nations communities.
Traditionally, there’s been a history of poor landfill operations and almost no recycling programs in First Nations communities leading to a lot of pollution.
“I keep hearing that Indigenous people are the keepers of our Earth Mother. We have a strong role to play in that we have to take care of our own communities before we can go and help others,” said Gladue. “The benefit of Tribal Chiefs is we’re really strong on partners and partnerships.”
Evergreen Regional Waste Management, southwest of St. Paul, is acting as one of the examples for what Tribal Chiefs want their partners (Kehewin, Cold Lake First Nation, Frog Lake, Whitefish Lake, Beaver Lake, Heart Lake) to aspire toward.
Almost ten students are enrolled in the course which is midway through completion. Besides some of the waste basics, they are also learning about household hazardous waste, job hazard analysis, composting, site tours, and various recycling programs.
The program is designed for a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning – for every week these students spend in the classroom, three weeks are on-site at a landfill or transfer station, said Projects Coordinator, Garret Steinhauer.
“That’s the most integral aspect is the job placement because that’s where they learn a lot of the skills that they’re going to take back to the community,” Steinhauer said.
That’s where James Jackson’s focus is.
After a minor car accident sidelined him from work, he was approached by Whitefish Lake Employment and Training to enroll in this green initiative. He agreed.
On one of his first days, Jackson had a revelation after seeing the dangerous effects of leeching.
“It was at that moment that I remembered our site back home, and I realized we have a big problem,” said Jackson.
That spurred his interest to the point where in between his course work in Smoky Lake County, he’s focused on what could be next after his training.
“What I’d like to see is to bring leadership together from all the different communities, maybe have the students come together, and pass on what we’re learning. See if we could be included in consultation and in feasibility studies, so we could use the skills that we’re learning,” said Jackson.
As a pilot project, this course currently lacks official accreditation, but that could change soon as the partners are in talks with NAIT’s Alternative Energy program, projects Amanda Doyle, Director of Lands and Environment TSAG.
“The material is there, the students are there, and the knowledge is there, but it’s a unique set-up. That is one of the objectives to bring this elsewhere, and I know having industry and municipal partners in the room is a huge step towards that,” said Doyle.
The initial course will be finished in three months.