Over the course of three days, from April 28th to 30th, 90 community members, researchers and NGO representatives met in Brokenhead Ojibway Nation to discuss the impacts of hydro development in Manitoba and celebrate the successful application of the Hydro Research Alliance Partnership Grant. A total of 20 communities and 11 organizations were represented, along with researchers and students of both the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. This was the third large community meeting to facilitate a Research Alliance around issues related to hydro development and it built on the work of the first two meetings held in Thompson in December 2014 and Opaskwayak Cree Nation in June 2015.
The Gathering kicked off on Thursday night with a chicken alfredo dinner by Sabrina Morriseau, featuring local talent Jon Bear and Friends. The evening showcased a photo exhibit from the Interchurch Council on Hydro Power, and art by Robert Spence and Gerald Kuehl, and provided some informal networking before getting down to business Friday morning.
Friday morning was dedicated to providing an update on the SSHRC Partnership Grant and focusing on an action plan to facilitate cross-regional community projects and research. The guiding question for discussion was the following:
What would you like to see done with $30,000 – $40,000 per year for one or two years (and possibly additional years though that would mean foregoing other potential projects)?
Participants broke out into small groups to discuss the question and students and researchers acted as facilitators and notetakers, letting community members do most of the talking. The focus was on the creation of a living archive, a WHA youth camp, and cross-community visits.
Friday afternoon was dedicated to the various possibilities of community action research and hearing of success stories from previous partnership grants. There was also time for NGO representatives to explain the work of their organizations and what they can bring to the Alliance.
Friday ended with a hot turkey dinner, while watching documentaries focused on hydro impacts in Norway House Cree Nation and South Indian Lake. After dinner, Sagkeeng’s Finest, wowed the crowd with their performance and got people on their feet with a quick lesson. Definitely a highlight!
The final day of the Gathering provided time for a focused discussion on licensing, based on the Wa Ni Ska Tan Hydro Alliance’s four pillars: documentation, advocacy, education, and outreach. A fifth pillar was suggested during the discussion – visioning – to provide a forward-focused, next generation context.
The final discussions of the Research Alliance Gathering revolved around governance and organizational structure, and the name of the Alliance. Participants broke into two groups to discuss the two topics based on their interest. Within the governance and organizational structure group, people proposed and signed-up for various sub-committees, which will be implemented on an as-needed basis. Within the group discussing the name, there was a lot of discussion about whether the focus of the name should be on water or hydro. While no formal decision was made, the group decided to keep the name, Wa Ni Ska Tan, in the interim and revisit the topic at the next meeting.
All sessions were recorded and will inform the governance, research, and community projects going forward.