Lana Eagle wins 2018 PDAC Skookum Jim Award

Lana Eagle is the 2018 winner of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Skookum Jim Award

by Peter Caulfield
A portrait shot of Lana Eagle

Lana Eagle has made great contributions to the mining industry. — Photo courtesy Peter Caulfield

Lana Eagle is the 2018 winner of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Skookum Jim Award.

Recipients of the award have demonstrated exceptional achievement or service in a Canadian Aboriginal-run service business for the Canadian mining industry or a Canadian Aboriginal exploration or mining company.

Alternatively, they have made a significant individual contribution to the mining industry.

The award is named for Skookum Jim—his real name was Jim Mason—who was a member of the Tagish First Nation in what is now Yukon. He was a packer for miners and famous for his great strength. Skookum Jim was also one of the first co-discoverers of gold in the Klondike in 1896.

PDAC introduced the Skookum Jim Award in 2008. The past three recipients, before Lana Eagle, were Peter Moses, Darrell Beaulieu and Sam Bosum.

Eagle and six other PDAC award winners will be feted at the PDAC Awards Gala and After Party (see sidebar for the names of the others). The event will take place March 6, 2018, at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto during the next PDAC Convention.

Linking Indigenous peoples with mining interests

According to PDAC, Eagle has contributed greatly to Canada’s mining industry by “working diligently to bridge the divide between Indigenous communities and junior and major mining companies.”

“I was very surprised and humbled to hear that I’d won the award,” said Eagle, who is an Aboriginal relations consultant based in Campbell River, British Columbia. “So many Aboriginal people are doing great work in the same field.”

The first female Indigenous winner of the Skookum Jim Award, Eagle is a member of the Whitecap Dakota Nation in central Saskatchewan.

She has devoted her career to building relationships between the mining industry and Indigenous communities across Canada.

Eagle is the chairwoman of the Aboriginal committee of the Association for Mineral Exploration (AME). In 2017, she became the first Indigenous woman to be elected to the association’s board. 

In addition, she is a program advisor to the British Columbia Institute of Technology, serves on the diversity and inclusion advisory committee of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM), and is vice-president of CIM’s Western district.

Eagle has taken part in several panels on the topic of Indigenous engagement and reconciliation and has advised government agencies at both the federal and provincial levels.

She is also a speaker and lecturer, and a mentor to Indigenous youth who either work in the mineral sector or want to find out more about it.

Eagle is the driving force behind the AME Gathering Place, where industry and Indigenous representatives meet to forge common ground.

To bridge the divide between Canadian First Nations and the mining sector, education on both sides is needed, Eagle said.

“Explorers and miners need to explain to First Nations what they do, what the differences are between exploration and mining, and what benefits can be expected,” she said.

Engaging with First Nations

In addition, the mining sector needs to engage early with First Nations.

“All First Nations are different, and they all have different expectations that need to be managed and kept realistic,” Eagle said. “First Nations decision-makers need to know what each project is about and what they can realistically expect from them. They also need to understand how long it can take to bring a project through the lengthy approval process and into production.”

Eagle says the biggest hurdle she faces as a negotiator between miners and First Nations is arranging a meeting between the different stakeholders.

“So be prepared to be patient,” she said.

All of these challenges notwithstanding, relations between First Nations and the mining sector have been improving.

“It’s starting to happen all across the country,” Eagle said.

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