DEC. 7, 1999 - NEWS
Cree official criticizes hydroelectric power
Travis Reed - Staff Reporter
Every time University students turn on their lights, 10 percent of the energy
ruins the lives of indigenous
Canadian peoples, according to Cree Indian Nation officials.
Minneapolis-based Northern States Power fuels 10 percent of the Twin Cities'
energy needs with power piped
over the Canadian border from Manitoba Hydro, a 14-station hydroelectric-power
producer operating primarily
in the Nelson River Drainage Basin of southern Canada.
>From the first station constructed in 1928 to the latest in 1992, the Manitoba
hydroelectric giant manipulated
river-basin water levels to generate electricity.
The environmental effects have been severe, said Kenny Miswaggon, a Pimicikamak
Cree Nation elected official.
Miswaggon spoke Monday to a University panel on environmental racism at the
Office of Special Learning
Opportunity's Human Rights week.
The plants have adversely affected the ecosystem of connecting rivers and
disrupted the areas around them; in
addition to decimating native animal and bird species, unnatural water
fluctuations cause river-bank erosion and
shoreline destruction, Miswaggon said.
Members of the Cree Nation, including Miswaggon, say their way of life has been
"Every day, people are deprived of their right to live, right to culture and
right to livelihood," Miswaggon said.
"The aboriginal people and their land have been destroyed because of
To date, the Crees say 3 million acres of their land has been destroyed by
Manitoba Hydro. They also suffer
from high suicide rates, including 110 attempts -- 2.4 percent of the population
-- since Jan. 1 of this year.
Miswaggon showed before-and-after photographs of Cree land. The pictures
depicted barren basins, uprooted
trees and headwaters inaccessible to local fauna.
The Cree Nation receives no compensation for this use of its land. Canadian law
did not require an
Environmental Impact Statement, and Cree officials say they were lied to about
the plant's environmental
The area has been labeled an "environmental-sacrifice zone" by the activist
group Minnesotans for an Energy
Efficient Economy. Furthermore, the United Nations has condemned Canada's
treatment of indigenous peoples.
Ninety percent of Manitoba Hydro's exported electricity goes to NSP, making it
Manitoba Hydro's biggest
And people of the Cree Nation are concerned things are about to get worse.
This summer, NSP announced the need for an additional 1,200 megawatts of
electricity by 2005. Ann Stewart, a
panelist and U.S. information officer for the Cree Nation, said Manitoba Hydro
is a leading candidate to supply
the additional power. If chosen, Manitoba would have to double the electricity
it currently provides NSP.
But Stewart is looking to consumers to use their voice to stop the deal. And she
said Monday that University
students can make the difference.
In the early 1990s, the Hydro Quebec's expansion was thwarted in large part by
East Coast students who
organized protest movements and caused a few key universities to divest company
Stewart said those students used the power of their universities to make social
changes. She said University
students could do the same.
Travis Reed covers environment and transportation and welcomes comments at
email@example.com. He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3235.
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