CALGARY — An energy summit in Calgary is highlighting and fostering Indigenous support for oil and gas projects.

At the National Coalition of Chiefs Energy and Natural Resources Summit at Grey Eagle Casino Events Centre about 450 people from across the country gathered Monday, including representatives from natural resource industries and nearly 80 chiefs who favour energy development.

“There’s 20 of us that have signed onto Coastal Gaslink natural gas line,” said Chief Dan George of Burns Lake First Nation.

“I believe every First Nation has the right to develop their own lands for their own people to get them out of poverty.”

The event aims to build networks and develop understanding.

One of the speakers, Niilo Edwards, the executive director of the First Nations Major Project Coalition, said the group works to inform but not influence decisions.

“Our members are interested in development but they’re interested in the development on their terms,” said Edwards.

“They want to be in the driver’s seat of what happens within their traditional lands and to be part of the management of the project.”

Alberta recently launched an Indigenous Opportunities Corporation to allocate $1 billion in loans to support Indigenous co-ownership and participation in the energy sector.

“For Métis and First Nations people it’s not that easy, you can’t put your reservation up for collateral for a loan,” said Alberta’s Indigenous Minister Rick Wilson.

“This will be a backstop to be partners in prosperity in Alberta.”

Being partners in land stewardship is another component key to Indigenous leaders.

“We’re not just relying on the company to say, 'yes it was done properly,'” said Chief George. “We have eyes on the ground.”

A new organization called Indigenous Strong launched at the summit. The group of Indigenous energy workers will share and promote opportunities for collaboration and promote more First Nations and Métis involvement in energy development.