Some of you have received information or are aware that there is a
representative of Split Lake Cree Nation who is now visiting American
decision-makers and the media, and some of you have contacted me. Below are
two letters exchanged by the Chiefs -- important source material for
Americans and Canadians trying to understand the effects of
mega-hydroprojects upon indigenous peoples and their environment.
(Information Officer, Pimicikamak Cree Nation)
121 West Grant Street/Suite 116
Minneapolis MN 55403-2340 USA
This material is distributed by Ann Stewart (USDOJ FARA #5313) on behalf of
Pimicikamak Cree Nation. Additional information is available at the
Department of Justice, Washington DC.
--------------on Split Lake Cree First Nation letterhead March 17 2000
TO Chief John Miswagon, Pimicikamak Cree Nation
Certain articles and statements have appeared recently in newspapers, on web
sites and other public forums in the United States and Canada concerning the
impacts on the Cree people of past and potential future northern Manitoba
Hydro developments. These materials address matters affecting the rights and
interests of Split Lake Cree First Nation. They have been made without our
authority or agreement.
Attached you will find an authoritative statement of the position of Split
Lake Cree First Nation with respect to Hydro developments in our Resource
Area. As the position statement makes clear, we will continue to speak with
our own voice, reflecting the consensus of our people. We believe that the
location of our Resource Area, in respect of past and fuure Hydro
development, provides strong reasons why our voice should be listened to,
In our view, it could well be that the people who would suffer most in the
long run from any reduction in trade in electrical power between Manitoba
and the northern States would be the Cree of northern Manitoba. The dams in
northern Manitoba have been built, the Churchill River has been diverted,
the Lake Winnipeg Regulation is in place. The Province of Manitoba and
Manitoba Hydro are not going to stop producing hydro power from these dams,
and they are not going to tear down these dams.
The younger and middle aged Cree have grown up with the Hydro Project in
their midst, and many of them do not know a different world. The leaders in
most of the impacted First Nations in northern Manitoba are searching for
ways to provide benefits for their people from the Hydro Project. It is a
crisis situation and within the idea of crisis is the decisive moment that
contains the elements of both disaster and opportunity.
Conditions in all of the five Northern Flood Agreement First Nations are
similar in that we have suffered from a period of very rapid change to our
social and economic conditions over the last fifty years, exacerbated by the
massive Hydro Project that has caused adverse impacts of tragic proportions
to our land, lives, and livelihood. Our traditional lands and a way of life
have been devastated and desecrated by the adverse impacts of the Hydro
While the NFA First Nations share this common history, Split Lake Cree First
Nation has chosen our own path into a better future for our chidlren and our
The Split Lake Cree Resource Area is located in the heart of the giant Hydro
Project and four major dams, producing more than 70% of Manitoba Hydro's
electric power, are situated in our traditional homeland.
Over the past ten years the Split Lake Cree leadership, in concert with our
Elders and our people, have acceptd the fact that we cannot change the past.
Nevertheless, we continue to grieve for a way of life that has passed. In
the matter of our forefathers, the present generation are searching for a
way to adapt our total physical, social, and economic environment for the
benefit of all our people. We are keenly aware of all the social and
economic challenges we are facing. We are moving to deal with these
challenges within the context of the existing environment and our
Split Lake Cree are aware that Manitoba Hydro has been examining the
possibility of developing a new generating station in our Resource Area. We
see this as an opportunity for our First Nation and Manitoba Hydro to forge
a new and mutually beneficial relationship. This is the opportunity that we
see in our present "crisis" situation.
Historically in Canada, where there has been a major resource development in
Indian country the development, while benefiting Canada as a whole, has been
disastrous for First Nations people.
Split Lake Cree are proposing a new and different arrangement to Manitoba
Hydro that could have major ramifications for future relationships between
Split Lake Cree and Manitoba Hydro. This new arrangement, if it can be
developed, could provide a positive and creative model for the future of
resource development in our traditional lands.
Our story can best be understood within the context of how one First Nation
is trying to deal with the challenges and problems caused by a major hydro
development in the midst of our traditional homeland. Governments and Hydro
have seen the moral and practical errors in past approaches to hydro
development, and are now trying to co-operate with our First Nation to move
through the difficult transition caused by rapid change. We think that our
approach can create mutual benefits for First Nations people and the
dominant society flowing from a major development, from its inception and
continuing on into the future.
We are negotiating now with Manitoba Hydro trying to practically "begin to
address the devastating impacts of its activities on our environment and our
lives." We are confident in the good faith of Hydro and in our ability to
represent our rights and interests, and to secure the sustainable and
self-reliant future that our people are determined to re-create.
We appreciate the time you may take to understand our position. I will be
having one of my senior representatives contact your office to determine
whether a mutually convenient time can be arranged to discuss these matters
with you more fully.
Chief Norman Flett
------------FROM Pimicikamak Cree Nation, March 24, 2000
Dear Chief Flett:
I appreciated receiving your explanation dated March 17, 2000 of the
position Split Lake Cree Nation is now taking with respect to Hydro
development in your Resource Area.
You have a duty to speak for your people, and I for mine. You speak
eloquently of the serious social and economic impacts of the Hydro Project
on your people, and the crisis you describe that continues to afflict them
-- apparently despite the Master Implementation Agreement signed with the
Northern Flood Agreement Crown Parties. I am sympathetic to the continuing
injustice of your situation and to your efforts to achieve something better
for your people.
You will no doubt appreciate that our experience has been similar. The Hydro
Project has devastated the lands and lives of the Pimicikamak people. The
Crown Parties did not live up to their undertakings in the Northern Flood
Agreement to remedy the problems they creted. The buyout agreement that they
attempted to impose on us would have left us too with a continuing crisis.
The main difference between your situation and ours is that we have chosen a
different path. The Pimicikamak Cree have vowed to no longer be beaten up in
silence. We, who are most affected by the Hydro Project -- including dams
built in your Resource Area -- are speaking out against past and any further
destruction of the boreal forest environment that is our common heritage --
all of it. We are telling our story to all who care to listen. Many do.
It is regrettable if, as you say, some materials have an unintended effect
on your plans to work with Manitoba Hydro. All I can say in rsponse is, when
you choose a partner, you may embrace all that they bring with them, good
It should be clear to everyone that Pimicikamak Cree Nation speaks for
itself and not for anyone else in speaking up for our own people, for our
own traditional lands, and for the boreal environement and watershed of
which they are part. Our environment and our human rights do not end at the
boundaries of our Resource Area, and every cubic metre of water that is held
back in Lake Winnipeg and later released to generate electricity near your
community has a serious impact on us.
Like your people, Pimicikamak Cree Nation needs to ensure that its future
generations have a future. We do not expect them to find it in an
environmental slum. We intend to ensure that the slum is cleaned up.
Meanwhile, bitter experience has taught us to be wary of the words of
governments and Manitoba Hydro and to look rather to their actions. Your
people shared that experience. I hope thy have not forgotten it.
Chief John Miswagon