Please note that the following article deliberately omits any mention of the
Northern Flood Agreement which was negotiated and signed by Canada,
Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro and five Cree communities in 1977, AFTER the
environmental damage proved more extensive than originally thought. The NFA
proposed among other things, economic development for the communities which
has never been carried out. Recently, the other four Cree communities under
duress, have signed subsequent agreements (and have given up some of their
rights as part of the deal).
You can examine the NFA at http://www.me3.org
(click on hydro), or at
Other useful information: Cross Lake has over 5,000 population which is over
half of the total number of Crees living on their traditional lands in the
Churchill/Nelson mega-project; diabetes was never a problem as long as
people stayed on their traditional diets; and the first suicide recorded in
Cross Lake was in 1976. In January 2000, there were 18 attempts in Cross
Lake, an undeniable "fact" that hydroelectric development continues to have
severe impacts upon indigenous inhabitants, their economy and their way of
life; there are many Crees who applaud the "campaign", but cannot speak to
Americans or concerned Canadians because they do not have political power in
And again I'll state what I say repeatedly: Whatever happens in Canada, this
is an American problem which demands an American solution because it is our
demand that drives the pace, size and scale of mega-development in the
(Information Officer, Pimicikamak Cree Nation)
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.
------------ORIGINAL ARTICLE FOLLOWS
'Do-gooders' don't speak for Manitoba band: chief
Sierra Club says hydro project 'exploiting' Cree
Adam Killick, National Post, 20 March 2000
WINNIPEG - The chief of a First Nation in northern Manitoba has criticized
the U.S.-based Sierra Club and other interest groups that are claiming to
speak on the band's behalf and have launched campaigns to deter northern
states from buying electricity from Manitoba Hydro.
Norman Flett, the chief of the Split Lake Cree, said none of the
"do-gooders" consulted him before they condemned a potential new project
that, he said, could bring economic self-sufficiency to his community of
2,500, which lies 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
Calling it the "harmful hydro" campaign, the Sierra Club accuses Manitoba
Hydro, a Crown-owned utility, of "exploiting" five Cree bands whose land was
flooded during the Churchill River diversion and Lake Winnipeg regulation
projects, which concluded in the late 1970s. "Minnesota-based Northern
States Power Company (NSP) buys electricity from a Canadian power company
that is destroying 32 million acres of boreal forest and devastating the
lives of 12,000 Cree aboriginal people. And the problem is about to get
worse," their Web site says.
The "worse" refers to the proposed 600 megawatt generating station that
would be built at the rapids on the Nelson River, 40 kilometres east of
Split Lake. The power produced would be sold exclusively to northern U.S.
states such as North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
However, Mr. Flett, in a position paper being distributed today to area
First Nations and U.S. government authorities, said that the project could
bring much-needed financial dividends and job opportunities, and break the
traditional welfare dependency on which many remote Indian bands survive.
"The past is the past, and we have learned from it," Victor Spence, the
band's environmental monitoring agency's director, said. "We have, as
leaders, to provide for the needs of our community."
In the early 1970s, as part of what was then the largest hydroelectric
project in Canadian history, nearly three quarters of the water flowing in
the Churchill River was redirected into Nelson River, which caused its flow
to reverse direction. Another dam near the north end of Lake Winnipeg
flooded millions of hectares of land that had traditionally been used by the
Cree for hunting and trapping, irrevocably altering the northern Manitoba
Split Lake, where water from the Churchill now flows into the Nelson River,
was a pristine water body. Now it is turbid, and, worse, the peak water
seasons were reversed, wreaking havoc on fishing and other pursuits. "Life
as we knew it was altered and changed. We had to go inland to pursue
traditional pursuits, like muskrats and beavers," Mr. Spence said.
In the early 1990s, Split Lake, along with three of four other northern
Manitoba bands affected by the project, signed an agreement with Manitoba
Hydro and the federal and provincial governments which compensated the
communities for its impact.
Only the 4,000-strong Cross Lake First Nation, 250 kilometres south of Split
Lake, has refused to reach an agreement, saying the $110-million in
compensation offered to the bands is insufficient to address social upheaval
the projects have caused -- including numerous suicides -- for which John
Miswagon, its chief, holds Manitoba Hydro responsible. He and his
councillors, who have called themselves the "spokespeople for the Nelson
River drainage," have tried to convince Americans to stop buying hydro from
Manitoba, and employ Ann Stewart, a Minneapolis-based lobbyist as a
full-time spokeswoman on issues relating to hydroelectric development. A
former lobbyist for the James Bay Cree in northern Quebec, she enlisted the
aid of the Sierra Club and other interest groups.
The campaign has been successful, she noted, and is causing American power
utilities to rethink their relationship with Manitoba Hydro.
Cross Lake has the right to speak for itself, Mr. Flett said, but it and
organizations such as the Sierra Club should not have presumed to speak on
behalf of the other bands, which together constitute a majority of the Cree
in northern Manitoba. "Where were they back in the '70s when our elders
wanted to stop hydro development? What we need to do is look at new ways
that the Nelson River can provide for us."
It is wrong, he added, to blame Manitoba Hydro for every ill faced by
northern Manitoba aboriginals. "There are some incidental health-related
impacts," Mr. Spence said. "But we had diabetes before. We had residential
schools. Hydro was not the cause of those, so to ask it to solve all those
problems isn't fair."
Ms. Stewart, however, defended the Sierra Club and said it is up to the
other four bands to speak up, if they like their arrangements with Manitoba
"This is the first I've heard of this," she said. She questioned whether the
Split Lake Cree had "done their homework" with respect to hydro development
and their relationship with Manitoba Hydro. "Are they going to still be able
to eat fish? I don't know. I'd be asking those questions. It never seems to
work out like that for people of colour."
Anne Ostberg, the St. Paul, Minnesota-based co-ordinator of the Sierra
Club's campaign against Manitoba Hydro, conceded the organization, one of
the largest and most credible in the world, only consulted with Ms. Stewart
and representatives from the Cross Lake First Nation before launching the
lobby effort on behalf of all the Cree. "We didn't, actually, talk to the
others," she said. "From our perspective, the information was brought to us
by the people from Cross Lake, so, no, we personally didn't research
The utility's Hydro exports, worth about $300-million annually, form 30% of
the revenue for Manitoba Hydro. The result, said Bob Brennan, the president
of the utility, is that Manitoba residents have the cheapest electricity in
North America. "If we didn't have those exports, our rates would have to go
Seventy five percent of the province's current 5,000 megawatt operating
capacity comes from the Split Lake resource area, compared with 2% in the
Cross Lake region. The Sierra Club is hurting the four communities that need
that development for their economic survival, he said. "They're creating a
real problem for some of the other aboriginal communities that we've already
settled with. They were impacted for sure, and that's why they got
settlements from us. But they're trying to make the best use of these
settlements," he said.
Joe Keeper, a 71-year-old Cree from Norway House, another of the five First
Nations impacted by the flooding, agreed. If the Sierra Club, "fighting" for
the Cree, manages to stop the export of power to the U.S., it will be a
Pyrrhic victory, he said. "The dams are built. They're not going to be torn
down. If they can help Cross Lake get a better deal, then that's fine. But
if all it does is stop the import of electricity, then they aren't going to
get anything at all."
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