Melanie Daniels is a Senior Advisor with Kisik Environmental Services. She is the product of a German mother and Métis father and grew up like most any other urban kid in Calgary without much direct connection to her traditional roots.
In spite of this, she is the niece of renowned Métis leader Harry Daniels—an enigmatic figure in Canadian Aboriginal politics. Melanie even marched with Harry on Parliament Hill in Ottawa as a child, in solidary with native women’s rights.
Melanie developed an interest in geology at an early age and aspired to work in Alberta’s burgeoning oil and gas sector, but switched her focus to biology at the University of Alberta after becoming a mother herself and gaining awareness of environmental issues.
On graduating, the Native Students Union sent her a letter indicating that she was the first Aboriginal female to obtain a degree in Biology from the University.
Thanks to her education as a biologist and experience with Aboriginal issues, Melanie was recruited by the federal Department of Indian Affairs (today, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada) first as a summer student, then hired on part-time, and finally hired on full-time as the department was undertaking a cross-country initiative in managing environmental issues on reserves.
“I grew up aware that I was Aboriginal but never really thought much about it,” says Melanie. “It was only at Indian Affairs when I started to work with First Nations that I became aware of my culture and Aboriginality. The experience helped me get my feet wet in the environmental sector and opened up doors for me in the realm of Aboriginal relations. Relationships I formed in that position have stuck with me to this day, both personally and professionally.”
After working with Indian Affairs, Melanie took a position as an Environment and Surface Analyst with Indian Oil and Gas Canada, the body responsible for oil and gas development, monitoring and reclamation on reserves. She also became directly involved with housing and public works projects for Kehewin Cree Nation, south of Bonnyville.
Following her 9 years with the Government of Canada, she moved into a role with the Government of Alberta as a biologist involved with gravel pit reclamation projects. During this time, Alberta Environment began to implement the First Nation Consultation policy, and Melanie successfully applied as an Aboriginal Relations Advisor.
The government world had treated Melanie well, but she felt it was time for a change and entered into a consultancy role on behalf of industry, where she successfully acted as an Aboriginal Engagement Lead for the Vantage Pipeline project, which runs from North Dakota to Empress at the Saskatchewan-Alberta border.
A short career stop with TransCanada allowed her further experience with industry prior to joining her current organization, Kisik, and making connections to Annette Ozirny, a First Nations and Métis consultant through whom she became aware of AITF’s Aboriginal Environmental Services Network.
“I was never formally involved with any programs at AITF, but I closely follow the great work they do,” says Melanie. “Kisik is a start-up company that benefits not only from the efforts of AITF but all members of the Aboriginal Environmental Services Network who contribute to our growing industry.”