Rock legend Neil Young got his idea for the “Honor the Treaty” tour to help fight tar sands expansion after a conversation on the road to Fort McMurray.
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation spokesperson Eriel Deranger was driving Young in his ethanol-powered Lincoln car last September to the oil boom town, when he began asking about her people’s legal battles to stop the expansion of Alberta’s tar sands.
“He said, ‘Well, how are you guys financing all these cases?’” she said, remembering her drive with Young and her two-year-old son n the back.
Deranger’s community lives downstream of Alberta’s tar sands and are among the very few that have fought industry giants like Royal Dutch Shell for projects that threaten to destroy traditional territory. Deranger and chief Allan Adam had been taking Young to different communities, after he reached out asking for a “real tour” of tar sands-affected communities.
“I told him that we do the lawsuits very carefully, because sometimes we don’t know where the money is going to come from,” she said.
The singer then started insisting that they needed a legal defense trust fund, and wondered what he could do to help their fundraising drive.
“He said, ‘I want to do something about this. I feel like I have some pull and influence and I feel like I should do something to help you guys.’ And over the course of the last few months, we have been working out the details of that concert coming to fruition.”