Located in northern Alberta, the Heart Lake First Nation (HLFN), is a small but mighty Nation. Its 492 members are vital participants in many local oil and gas projects.

Located approximately 280 kilometers northeast of Edmonton, 75 kms north of Lac La Biche on Hwy 881, Heart Lake First Nation territory is close to several key oil and gas industrial sites—a key position for the community, and for partner companies that work with them.

HLFN is a success story in Indigenous joint ventures with the oil and gas industry. By working alongside firms that demonstrate promotion and inclusion of Indigenous businesses and partnerships, HLFN’s economic development supports not only economic reconciliation but accelerated growth as well.

“Alberta’s Indigenous communities have an important role to play in today’s energy industry,” says Tony Bagga, Director of Government & Industry Relations & Business Development at Heart Lake First Nation. “Indigenous-corporate partnerships bring so many benefits to both sides.”

Heart Lake First Nation has created many band-owned corporations and a total of 18 current partnerships. Some band-owned businesses include construction, facility maintenance, onsite machining, road building, paramedic services, engineering, and 3D scanning and modeling, and the list is growing.

HLFN is constantly looking to diversify its economic development portfolio, says Bagga. “HLFN aggressively continues to seek opportunities of partnership and participation in our traditional and outlying lands that will directly promote the growth of our Nation’s economy.”

Partners, potential partners, and policy makers who understand the importance of Indigenous inclusion in participation and ownership look to HLFN as an example of a successful, mutually-beneficial relationship. “The direct benefit of our efforts improves the quality of lives for our people,” says Bagga. “Participation with our partners promote our mission of self-reliance and supports the improvements of the well-being of our nations families, citizens, and overall community.”

One such pioneering partnership is the Athabasca Indigenous Investments—an historic, landmark partnership made up of 23 diverse Indigenous communities who came together to purchase seven pipelines that move critical energy resources from our traditional lands to global markets.
This investment provides the Indigenous peoples who are most impacted by these assets a direct stake in and accountability for their stewardship and providing a significant economic impact now and for generations.

A newly created entity, Athabasca Indigenous Investments (Aii), will steward this investment, which represents the largest energy-related Indigenous economic partnership transaction in North America to date.

“We are very pleased to be joining our Indigenous partners in this landmark collaboration,” said Al Monaco, President and Chief Executive Officer of Enbridge. “We believe this partnership exemplifies how Enbridge and Indigenous communities can work together, not only in stewarding the environment, but also in owning and operating critical energy infrastructure.”

“We work alongside firms that demonstrate promotion and inclusion of indigenous businesses and partnerships,” says Bagga. “HLFN is also engaged and participating on large scale equity ownership projects. Look to us when thinking of meaningful participation as we are open to all conversations on equity.”

“People from our community are getting training and employment thus enabling our members to expand and participate in our offered services and to work with some of the best industrial projects in the region,” says Tony Bagga, business development director of Heart Lake First Nation. “The joint venture we possess are invaluable to the success of our community.”

The impact these partnerships have had on the Heart Lake community—492 members, with 242 living on reserve—has been tremendous.

The revenues generated go to supporting the Nations initiatives of promotion and retention of culture, recreation, education, programming, infrastructure and countless capital projects.
There is currently a new recreational facility being developed in the community, which will host cultural events and provide programs for youth and community health and wellness.

The Nation’s long-term goal is to grow its capacity to become self-sustaining, says Bagga. Throughout their history and long tradition of living off the land, the Heart Lake community has deeply valued environmental stewardship, says Bagga.

“Heart Lake’s alliances that are presented to you today play a key role in the advancement of our goals of self-sustainability,” says Bagga. “These efforts are supported when we stand together and gain support from our neighboring industry partners. With the development of a collaborative voice for business participation we will ensure a prosperous economy and community for years ahead.”

Partner companies benefit from quality service at competitive prices, years of expertise, diverse business capabilities, environmental stewardship, and critical community buy-in.
Thanks to these benefits, many industrial companies are now following suit, fostering partnerships with Indigenous communities. The shifting economic landscape is making Alberta’s oil and gas industry evermore aware and inclusive.

“Our joint ventures meet and exceed their goals while providing a tremendous boost for our community and the local areas they serve,” he says. “Heart Lake’s interest, drive, and businesses are continuously growing, which represents an incredible opportunity to meaningfully inclusion of our collaborations within your current and future activities.

For more information on the Heart Lake First Nation and to discuss equity participation, partnerships and possibilities, contact Mr. Bagga at tbagga@hlfn.net.