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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.
Regards,
Ann Stewart
(Information Officer, Pimicikamak Cree Nation)
121 West Grant Street/Suite 116
Minneapolis MN 55403-2340 USA
p: 612.871.8404
e: stewartship@visi.com
f: 612.871.7922
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

Chief Miswagon:

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, and respected.

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 Project.

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 children's children.

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 traditional culture.

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.

Yours sincerely,
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 and bad.

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.

Yours truly,
Chief John Miswagon