Hundreds of First Nations members, Metis Elders and community leaders embarked on a 13-kilometre trek on Saturday, hoping to draw attention to negative aspects of development in the Fort McMurray area.

The event, which organizers say is not a protest, was put on by Keepers of the Athabasca. Participants say the region currently occupied by Suncor and Syncrude plants used to be their prime berry-picking and hunting ground.

"Mother earth needs our help to protect and heal the land and water that is being decimated by tar sands," said Cleo Reece, co-organizer of the walk, in a press release.

"We're walking to help heal what has been destroyed and to give each other the spiritual strength to carry on."

The group claims the oil sands are responsible for higher cancer rates, the death of many animals and extreme water pollution.

"As indigenous people we are caretakers of the earth and we need to work together to ensure the health and safety for next generation," said Reece.

This is the first annual healing walk organized by the group. Participants will end the event with a traditional feast in Fort McKay Saturday evening.