Respecting Indigenous Peoples

We recognize and respect the choice of Indigenous communities to live as distinct peoples, with their own cultures and relationships to the land. Wherever our operations neighbor with Indigenous communities, we seek to partner and engage with them to diminish the negative aspects of our operations and maximize the social and economic benefits we can bring. Areas where we explore or operate near these communities include the United States, Canada, Australia and Indonesia. Our engagement with Indigenous communities in those locations is consistent with the principles of the International Labour Organization Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our relationships are governed by national laws of the countries in which we are working, our social performance guidance, our own positions on sustainable development and human rights, and our core SPIRIT Values of Safety, People, Integrity, Responsibility, Innovation, and Teamwork. An update was provided to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in New York in March 2018.

Engagement and Consultation

When engaging with indigenous peoples who may impact or be impacted by our operations, we seek first to understand their social values, culture and traditions, as well as their expectations and preferences for dialogue and dispute resolution. Our consultations consider traditional land use information and community interests, goals and perspectives on environmental, social and economic topics. We engage with Indigenous communities at the regional, local and individual levels by meeting regularly with regional governments, community associations, local leaders and community residents. Our stakeholder engagement professionals work closely with our drilling and production teams to guide discussions and facilitate cooperation with indigenous peoples. Wherever we engage with Indigenous communities, we pursue opportunities to support economic development opportunities consistent with Indigenous communities’ culture and community development plans. In some cases, the engagement and consultation may be guided by a formal agreement with the Indigenous community. We seek to honor cultures of Indigenous groups by taking steps to learn about Indigenous societies so that we know how to properly demonstrate respect in our relationships. Some of our larger business units provide cultural awareness training. In many cases, our stakeholder engagement leaders and business leaders will educate themselves through mentors in the Indigenous community or through the help of local experts.


Working closely with communities and protecting the environment are key values everywhere we operate but are especially important in the sensitive ecosystem on the North Slope of Alaska. When we were not able to reach agreement with local stakeholders on the location of the main bridge connecting drill site CD5 to the Alpine Central Processing Facility, we withdrew the permit applications and worked closely with permitting agencies and Nuiqsut residents to find common ground. The goal was to minimize the impact of the bridge on key subsistence hunting and fishing areas while ensuring that it would also work from an engineering, access and cost perspective. After engagement and consultation with the village elders, we were able to agree on the final location for the bridge. View more about CD5

On Alaska’s North Slope, Nuiqsut is the community closest to our operations. Building strong relationships with the communities near our operations is a key priority. In 2019, a ConocoPhillips team helped Nuiqsut resident Lydia Sovalik relocate her family’s cabins along the eroding Nigliq Channel riverbank. Sovalik’s brother built the two cabins in 1950, on a plot of land her father obtained in 1948. After hearing that the family was in danger of losing their two historic cabins, a crew from ConocoPhillips worked with Sovalik’s grandson to move them away from the channel, so that future generations could continue subsistence activities on their land. Recognizing and respecting the choice of Indigenous communities to live as distinct peoples, with their own cultures and relationships to the land, is a cornerstone of our operations. Watch a video about the effort. 


We use a values and interest assessments (VIA) process to guide practitioners as they work with Canadian Indigenous communities to create positive, sustainable outcomes. Our stakeholder engagement team begins by building rela­tionships through authentic, collab­orative dialogue with members of the community. Next, we work with the community to create a shared vision and to discuss ways we can work together. The third stage centers around planning and focuses on collaboratively prioritizing ideas and creating structures and processes for working together. The ideas are turned into a shared action plan to be implemented and assessed. The VIA process can result in formal agreements with interested Indig­enous communities in close proximity to large developments. For those communities, agreements formalize a respectful relationship and the mutual promises between our company and communities. Each agreement is focused on shared value and addressing the specific promises, obligations and benefits for both parties, and like many agree­ments, is confidential. Agreements include a process to resolve concerns about rights infringement from our activities and language committing both parties to work toward mutually beneficial relationships.

The Cooperation and Mutual Benefits Agreement (CMBA) with Fort McMurray First Nation (FMFN) represents multiple years of engagement to build trust and respect, mutual areas of interest and benefit, and a formal commitment to a stronger relationship. In 2017, at the first Leadership Committee meeting with FMFN we identified areas where we could improve and extend our relationship. We received feedback that our contracting strategies were impacting both the current and pro­spective opportunities for the nation, and that we still had work to do. We explored how our business prac­tices had evolved in the past year as market conditions had changed. These discussions strengthened the joint business working group to create an ongoing deeper dialogue on local contracting opportunities and capabilities. We also changed our internal practices to work more strategically with the FMFN on the shared goal of local business benefits. Another outcome of the meeting was the establish­ment of a working group to provide a forum to discuss environmental monitoring and identify opportunities to support environmental stewardship of the Surmont Project and FMFN commu­nity pillars.


The West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project in Australia centers around an innovative mix of customary Indigenous fire management techniques and contemporary technology to reduce the instance and severity of devastating wildfires. In 2018, the program abated more than 177,253 tonnes of CO₂ equivalent, bringing the program total to over 2 million tonnes. The project offers economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits for local Indigenous community members across 17,574 square miles of remote, biodiversity- and culturally rich Aboriginal land adjoining the Kakadu National Park. WALFA supports over 300 Indigenous jobs per year, conserves rainforest vegetation, protects local wildlife and rock art sites and allows cultural aspects of land management to be passed down to younger generations. It also reduces greenhouse gas emission costs effectively and is one of Australia’s top five largest offset programs. All of this makes it a truly sustainable project with social, environmental and economic benefits. The program is so successful that it has now been emulated in more than 70 other projects across Northern Australia and exported internationally, with pilot programs in places such as Botswana.

At our Darwin LNG facility, we collaborate with the Larrakia community regarding our Aboriginal engagement in the area.