This story is a part of the APTN Information collection Energy Failure: The impacts of hydro dams on Northern Manitoba.
Douglas Kitchekeesik factors to the spot on the seashore the place he discovered the bones.
It was late July, and he was out on the land at his household’s camp on Cut up Lake.
“We found other remains going down to the water and after we flagged them, marked them on GPS, then continued a little further up the shore,” he recollects. “That’s when we found the skull. We knew what it was right away.”
It was the newest unsettling discover on the shores of Cut up Lake by a member of Tataskweyak Cree Nation.
For years their ancestors’ stays have been washing out alongside the banks of the as soon as clear and bountiful lake in Treaty 5 territory, some courting again millennia.
Cut up Lake is a part of the Nelson River watershed and sits about 150 kilometres upstream from the place the river empties into Hudson Bay.
A pair weeks prior to Kitchekeesik’s discover, extra stays have been found a few 15-minute boat journey away.
They have been about 1,900 years previous, he says.
Kitchekeesik has a relaxed demeanor and exudes a knowledge widespread amongst those that spend as a lot time on the land as he does.
(Douglas Kitchekeesik on the shores of Cut up Lake. Photograph: APTN)
He’s one among solely a handful of remaining fishermen who harvest from Cut up Lake.
A number of many years in the past, prior to the wave of hydro improvement that dammed the Nelson River in a number of locations and altered the native ecosystems, the Cut up Lake fishery was alive and nicely.
However Kitchekeesik is hanging on to his individuals’s conventional methods, making an attempt to protect them or future generations.
He typically brings group members, together with youth, to his camp, the place they converse Cree and find out how to stay off the land.
“Our waterways, it’s the most important thing to teach our young people,” he says. “What’s in the water and how to navigate that water.”
However working to protect that lifestyle isn’t straightforward.
A couple of winters again, Kitchekeesik’s cousin went via the ice and plunged into the frigid water beneath.
“He was still alive when he got here, we pulled him out of the water,” he recollects, explaining he acquired his cousin again to the camp, the place he died of hypothermia.
Kitchekeesik attributes his cousin’s demise to the “high water going up and down” due to the hydro dams upstream on the Nelson River.
“The community was self-sufficient”
The Clear Setting Fee’s current report on the cumulative results of hydro improvement in the area describes a lady who confirmed up to the group listening to in Tataskweyak.
She stated prior to hydro improvement the individuals of her group “had every thing they wanted.
“Fish were abundant, the water was healthy, and the land was teeming with wildlife,” the report reads. “The community was self-sufficient.”
The lady “felt that Manitoba Hydro played with people like a ‘predatory animal,’” and that “all it had brought was destruction and deceit.”
Tataskweyak was hit doubly onerous by hydro improvement in the 1970s.
The Churchill River Diversion impacted the waters of the Burntwood River, which move from the west into Cut up Lake. And the Lake Winnipeg Regulation altered the waters of the Nelson, which empties into Cut up Lake from the south.
A number of dams management the circulate of waters that ultimately make their approach into Cut up Lake.
Now, 60 kilometres downstream, one other is being constructed.
(The huge Keeyask dam in northern Manitoba. Photograph: Ashley Brandson)
Kitchekeesik fears as soon as the Keeyask dam is full it can again water up into Cut up Lake and additional erode the shorelines and influence the fisheries.
By the way, Tataskweyak is a companion on the Keeyask undertaking.
After many years of destruction and dispossession at the arms of Manitoba Hydro, the crown utility has made First Nations whose lands stand to be impacted companions on the first two dams of the 21st century.
Tataskweyak, Fox Lake, Conflict Lake and York Manufacturing unit are all companions on Keeyask, with a 25 per cent stake in the undertaking.
However Robert Spence, a band councillor, and till just lately, one among the last remaining business fishermen harvesting from Cut up Lake, says his individuals’s conventional financial system isn’t going to get any higher.
Spence says Keeyask is “going to change the dynamics of the whole system.”
He says Hydro as soon as promised the individuals of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation at South Indian Lake, a number of hundred kilometres northwest of Cut up Lake, that their waters “would recover in 50 years.”
Spence says it’s been virtually 50 years since Hydro constructed the Missi Falls dam, which controls the movement of water out of South Indian Lake into the Churchill River — “and South Indian still hasn’t recovered,” he says. “It’s nonetheless getting worse to today.
“So do you think we’re going to believe Manitoba Hydro when they tell us that Gull Lake and Split Lake will recover in 50 years?”
(Erosion alongside the shores of Cut up Lake contributes to the quantity of timber and different particles in the water. Manitoba Hydro pays group members to clear up the particles and pile it alongside the shores, making a safer surroundings for those that nonetheless fish and use the lake. Photograph: Justin Brake/APTN)
Spence says he has watched the “demise of the fish population on Split Lake,” and that his group’s fishery is “slowly collapsing.”
“There’s only six fishermen on the lake right now,” he explains. “There was 12 of us in 2005, and it’s 2018 now and there’s only six fishermen on the water now.”
Spence doubts he’ll return to fishing after his time on council comes to an finish. He laments that Cut up Lake “is going down the same path as South Indian Lake did.”
And he doesn’t have hope that being a companion on Keeyask will do a lot good for the group’s long run well-being.
As well as to the continued impacts on the Cut up Lake fishery, Spence says “the partnership that [Hydro] talks about isn’t so much of a partnership when the majority partner, the owner, doesn’t even include you on any of the major decision-making that takes place.”
He factors to a collection of protests by members of his group in 2014, once they blockaded provincial route 280, an extended dust street that connects Tataskweyak and Fox Lake Cree Nations to the paved provincial freeway system.
Heavy visitors to and from the Keeyask worksite had made the street impassable for group members, together with sufferers who repeatedly wanted to get to the hospital in Thompson for dialysis remedy and different medical wants, Spence explains.
He says the Keeyask visitors was a “safety issue” for his group when giant vans would get caught in the mud. Different occasions vans would unload cargo in the center of the street once they couldn’t cross due to the poor street circumstances.
“It was like playing Russian roulette with your life going on that road,” he says. “There was no restrictions on the traffic there.”
In the finish, the province agreed to restore the gravel street, however as companions on Keeyask, Tataskweyak would have to foot a part of the invoice.
Spence says the council wasn’t made conscious of this at the time.
In the meantime, as companions on the challenge, Tataskweyak members have been promised good jobs.
However stories of racism on the development website and in the employee’s camp have repeatedly made their method again to the group, says band councillor Robert Garson.
He says the council has “put pressure” on Hydro to handle racism on website, and that whereas they “have done a few things about it, it’s not enough.”
APTN Information requested an interview with Manitoba Hydro for this collection, however they declined.
As an alternative, spokesperson Bruce Owen forwarded a press release that outlined a lot of measures the utility has taken to “ensure all workers feel safe and welcomed at our project sites,” together with “cross-cultural training” and a compulsory two-day cultural consciousness workshop for supervisors and managers.
The assertion claims “almost 50 per cent of our staff in the north” is Indigenous, and that “respect and support of Indigenous peoples in all aspects of our business is a critical priority for us.”
The 695-megawatt Keeyask undertaking was initially estimated to value $6.5 billion, however the price ticket has since risen to $eight.7 and, in accordance to some analysts, might attain $10 billion by the time development is full.
Peter Kulchyski, a professor of Native Research at the College of Manitoba and co-founder of the Wa Ni Ska Tan alliance who’s main the visits to the hydro-impacted communities, says Tataskweyak “invested their own money in the hope of windfall profits,” however “they may be investing in a losing proposition.”
The destruction of South Indian Lake
O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation at South Indian Lake was as soon as a thriving group with certainly one of the healthiest fisheries in the area.
The Indigenous presence alongside the 100-mile lengthy lake dates again 6,000 years.
However by the late 1960s the group’s 500 residents who have been dwelling on a small island simply off the lake’s north shore discovered themselves in the method of Manitoba Hydro’s grasp plan for improvement.
The Churchill River Diversion (CRD) would increase water ranges by 10 metres and rework the lake into an enormous reservoir.
(Erosion alongside the shores of South Indian Lake. Photograph: Justin Brake/APTN)
To make approach for CRD, the O-Pipon-Na-Piwin individuals have been paid to burn their very own homes down in a pressured relocation off the island the place they lived, onto the lake’s shore.
“In some instances, the RCMP had to come in and take the people out, ‘cause they didn’t wanna move,” recollects Steve Ducharme, a fisherman and former group chief who helps lead the Wa Ni Ska Tan members on a tour of the lake.
O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Elder and educator Hilda Dysart has lived in South Indian Lake her whole life.
She says South Indian Lake “was once a self-sufficient community prior to the flood,” including there was a complete of “three people on social assistance” earlier than the Churchill River Diversion.
She estimates 95 per cent of the individuals now depend on social help.
The flooding “made a drastic change,” she says, including her individuals “have lots of social issues, which we didn’t have earlier than.
“You can’t even find words to explain how much destruction there’s been done to the beautiful environment that we used to live in.”
Hydro “a major contributor to the assimilationist agenda”
Kulchyski says whereas assimilation of Cree in Treaty 5 territory might not have been an specific aim of hydro improvement, the government and Manitoba Hydro have been conscious it was definitely a consequence.
“The intention was to make money, basically, but one of the elements of hydro development, and any development really, is it impedes the ability of people to make a land-based living,” he says.
“And that therefore is a major contributor to the assimilationist agenda.”
With residential faculties, the Cree have been subjected to “government insurance policies which are particularly designed to—via schooling and every thing they’re doing—assimilate Aboriginal individuals.
“And on the other hand,” with hydro improvement, he explains, “you have economic development…presuming that being menial wage labourers is the best possible future for them, and [which] is destroying the land base that allows a degree of independence and is the material basis of their culture.”
Kulchyski says as we speak Manitoba Hydro could possibly be “doing a lot more to support traditional culture in the communities” as a mitigation of its ongoing damming of rivers.
Most of the agreements Hydro has signed with First Nations in the area embrace financial compensation to fishers and trappers whose actions are impacted.
However that sort of compensation is lacking the level, Kulchyski says.
“Hydro thinks its impacts are wrecking nets, and it’s compensating people for [lost or damaged] fish nets,” he says.
However Hydro is “not willing to think about the impact of their dams on people’s language, people’s ability to pass down their cultures.”
Intentional or not in 2018, the perceived necessity of assimilating Cree to facilitate hydro improvement on their lands has lengthy existed.
A 1967 report from a gaggle of College of Manitoba researchers who have been commissioned to research the South Indian Lake and report again to Manitoba Hydro and the government suggested towards flooding the lake.
They stated relocation “would be unjust to the present inhabitants and unworthy of the Province, although it might be in keeping with much past treatment of the Indians.”
Manitoba Hydro Chair Donald Stephens rejected the report and finally labored with the province to decide an quantity of financial compensation they felt was satisfactory.
A couple of months later, in Might 1967, one other report was launched, this one by a the regulation agency Ginkel and Associates. It was commissioned by the Manitoba Improvement Authority to produce an “exhaustive examination of the settlement and the problems at South Indian Lake,” in accordance to a report on the Clear Setting Fee’s web site outlining the historical past of hydro improvement in Manitoba.
The report concluded that flooding South Indian Lake would “move forward in time the breakup of this community and way of life,” and assist them to make a “substantial contribution” to Manitoba’s rising financial system.
APTN requested an interview with Manitoba’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Relations, Eileen Clarke, however she declined.
As an alternative she emailed a press release saying that “Manitoba is working to build better relationships with northern First Nations affected by hydroelectric development, including the Keeyask Hydro project partnership.”
Ducharme, standing on the shore of South Indian Lake, says “the Manitoba government and Manitoba Hydro have succeeded [in] what the church and the federal government have been unable to do for the last 500 years. And that’s the complete financial, cultural and social genocide of our individuals.
“That’s what happened. That’s literally what happened,” he continues, “because our culture’s gone. You can’t live off the land anymore because it’s been totally destroyed.”
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