[Background: The Circle, a monthly publication which covers Native American
issues, published an article by reporter Eli Johnson about Cross Lake in its
January 2000 issue. Below is Manitoba Hydro's response which was printed in
February, followed by two letters in the March issue now on the stands.
A good neighbor
A recent article in The Circle implied that Minnesotans were enjoying
electricity generated in Canada at the expense of the environment and the
Cross Lake First Nation. Unfortunately your readers did not get an accurate
or complete story.
Manitoba Hydro projects, built more than 20 years ago, had an impact on the
environment and the communities adjacent to some northern Manitoba
waterways. But that impact does not approach the levels described in the
story. Furthermore we have taken significant action to address adverse
environmental impacts and compensate the neighboring communities.
We continue to work with the Cross Lake Cree to implement the Northern Flood
Agreement, which provides, among other things, compensation to the First
Nations. Our disagreement with that community is an anomaly. We have
successful working implementation agreements with four of the five First
Nations who are part of the Northern Flood Agreement.
Several years ago we were close to signing an implementation agreement with
the previous leadership from the Cross Lake First Nation worth nearly $110
million. However, new leadership decided to reject the agreement because it
didn't solve the community's pre-existing and unfortunate social problems,
such as unemployment and poverty. Solving those long-standing issues is
beyond our ability and beyond the scope of the Northern Flood Agreement.
We've also developed and funded natural resources programs that help the
Cross Lake Cree continue with their traditions of hunting and fishing.
Methyl mercury was never an issue at Cross Lake; residents have never been
advised to control or limit their consumption of fish for this reason.
Despite our differences, we remain committed to negotiating with the Cross
Lake First Nation in an attempt to find a solution. For more information
please call our offices at 204-474-3535 (collect) or visit our Web site at
Glenn P. Schneider
Manager, Public Affairs, Manitoba Hydro
Manitoba Hydro project called a "moral and ecological catastrophe"
Glenn Schneider, manager of Public Affairs for Manitoba Hydro, misses the
point in a letter to the editor in February's Circle.
Manitoba Hydro, a fully state-owned utility, sells electricity to
Minnesotans from a hydroelectric project it constructed 20-odd years ago in
a fragile sub-Arctic environment. The cheap electricity it sells to
Minnesotans comes at a very high cost: the ecological damage to a North
American boreal forest and river system; the economic, social and
psychological damage to Cree Indians whose hunting and fishing way of life
and cultural landmarks have been destroyed by flooding; and the undercutting
of Minnesota's innovative environmentalists who have worked for years to
convince their utilities, legislators and public utilities commissioners
that it's better and cheaper in the long run, to invest in efficiency, wind
power, solar power and gas-fired cogeneration in the Midwest.
The self-serving protestations by Manitoba Hydro that it is a "good
neighbor," that it is improving/conserving the environment, and that it is
benefiting/protecting the rights of Manitoba's indigenous peoples by paying
sums of compensation simply do not ring true. More credible is the 1999
finding by a church-sponsored Canadian inquiry that Manitoba Hydro's project
is a "moral and ecological catastrophe." Sadly, this catastrophe is one in
which all Minnesotans have been made complicit.
US Information Officer, Minneapolis
Pimicikamak Cree Nation
Minnesotans complicit in destruction of Cree lands
I would like to thank Eli Johnson for persuasively exposing me to the
crucial issues of hydropower and the environmental and social costs of NSP's
power purchases form Manitoba Hydro ("Trail of NSP's hydro power leads to
destruction in Cree country" Jan. 2000). Clearly, nature has bestowed what
has historically been Cree land with an enormous hydrological energy
potential in northern Manitoba. Needless to say, in a spiritual as well as
material sense, this Indian land, which includes its rivers, was always a
form of Native wealth. Ironically, this wealth has recently generated the
Crees' social and spiritual poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others.
And these "open veins" -- to use Eduardo Galeano's metaphor -- link me and
every other Minnesotan to not only the destruction of Cree lands, but also
to the alcoholism, domestic violence and suicides that Native elders
attribute to this destruction. Perhaps it's arguable, moreover, that
Minnesotans are complicit in yet another holocaust, for, in substance, it
seems like the Corss Lake Crees have been assigned the status of
When confronted with the history of North American Indian policy, many of us
European-Americans submit this retort: "I refuse to take responsibility for
the sins of my ancestors. I have never harmed any Indians, and I will only
take responsibility for those things that I can control." Fair enough.
What is happening to the Pimicikamak Crees, however, is happening now -- not
in 1492, 1862 or 1890. Therefore, as a non-Indian, this time I cannot blame
my ancestors. If I sit idly by while the Cross Lake Crees struggle to fight
off greater manipulation of the Nelson Rriver, if I let it happen this time,
the blood is on my hands. And the hands of every other Minnesotan who
chooses to look the other way.
Kevin Sands O'Brien