TC Energy Corp. agreed Tuesday to negotiate native ownership shares in its pipelines with five Canadian tribes, starting with the contested Keystone XL oil project to export 830,000 b/d to the United States.

The company announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Maskwacis Nations, Ermineskin Cree Nation, Montana First Nation, as well as the Louis Bull Tribe of the Saddle Lake Cree in Alberta and Nekaneet First Nation in Saskatchewan.

The tribes belong to Natural Law Energy, a native investment group that calls itself “an economic war party…hunting and pursuing greater health, inter-tribal, inter-generational wealth and benefits for our Peoples and Nations.”

Neither TC nor the group disclosed the size of the potential Keystone XL native ownership share under negotiation, indicating it expects to complete an agreement by year’s end.

“This partnership is historic and one of the largest ever of its kind in Canada and around Turtle Island — North America,” said CEO Travis Meguinis of the native investment group.

Keystone project leader Richard Prior said, “We aspire to expand this model into future opportunities for other Indigenous groups along our Keystone XL right-of-way both in Canada and the United States.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney showered praise on the MOU. The government backs Keystone with a C$7.5 billion ($5.3 billion) part-ownership and loan guarantee package.

“This historic agreement…marks another major step forward to securing indigenous communities as true partners in energy prosperity,” Kenney said.

The government also supports native roles in industry with a new provincial investment bank called Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corp. The financial agency recently inaugurated its portfolio by backing a C$93 million ($70 million) native share in a C$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) natural gas-fired power plant.

Alberta’s recovery from poor oil and gas prices and the Covid-19 pandemic “depends on indigenous communities participating in economic prosperity,” Kenney said. “The vast majority of Indigenous communities in Alberta and Western Canada recognize that their economic history and destiny lie in the prudent and responsible stewardship of the resources that lie on and below their traditional lands.”