Dennis Anderson Research Summary
tansi. ki-hîw pi-pih-kwan ni-ti-si-na-ka-sōn. makeso sakaihikan ni-toh-cin. Lillian (Attley) Anderson ni-ka-way é-ki-si-ni-ka-sōt ekwa Nancy (Ouskun) Attley noh-kom é-ki-si-ni-ka-sōt. ta-tas-kwé-yak noh-kom é-toh-cit.
Hello. My name is Eagle Whistle. I am from Fox Lake Cree Nation. My mother’s name was Lillian (Attley) Anderson and my grandmother’s name was Nancy (Ouskun) Attley. My grandmother was from Split Lake.
My colonized name is Dennis Anderson. Indigenous people are matrilineal and we recognize our bloodline through our mother and I announce my grandmother to place myself so others will know where I come from and they can recognize who my relations are.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) degree in 2017. I am currently in the Master of Arts in Native Studies program planning to graduate in Spring 2023. I plan on applying for the PHD in Native Studies program in the fall of 2023. I am the son of residential school Survivors and I am also a residential school Survivor.
My Master’s thesis will consist of six distinct sections summarized as follows. First, a brief description of my lived experience growing up in a community overrun with construction workers and the abuses perpetrated on the Indigenous peoples and the difficulties faced within the community from these invaders of our land – a microcosm of the societal cultural abuse of Indigenous people in the province and the country. Second, I will provide a brief history of makeso sakaihikun and the five-nation alliance it was once associated with and still considers it a strong cultural influence. Third, a review of the history of hydroelectric development from its beginning in the early 1900s in southern Manitoba to the megadam construction projects on ki-ché si-pi (Nelson River) in northern Manitoba. Fourth, a focus on a natural resource user and the adverse environmental, social, and cultural impacts imposed by hydroelectric development on his traditional pursuits of hunting, trapping, fishing, and berry-picking. Fifth, I will provide a brief overview of negotiations between makeso sakaihikun and Manitoba Hdyro. The sixth section will be a review and analysis of agreements between Manitoba Hydro, the Province of Manitoba, and the Fox Lake Cree Nation – the 2004 Settlement Agreement, the 2009 Adverse Effects Agreement, and the 2009 Keeyask Partnership Agreement.
I grew up in the community of Gillam during the construction of the Kettle Generating Station (GS), the Long Spruce GS, and the Limestone GS – three of Manitoba Hydro’s megadams constructed in the Traditional Territory of makeso sahaihikun ne-hi-yaw (Fox Lake Cree) with their associated Converter Stations at Radisson and Henday, the two bi-pole high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission lines originating in makeso sakaihikun Traditional Territory, the construction of forebays, and other ancillary works necessary for the generation and production of hydroelectricity.
There was a settlement in Gillam on the east side ‘across the tracks’. The main townsite was on the west side of the tracks. Many of the people in the community were Indigenous – a majority of whom were makeso sakaihikun ininewak (Fox Lake people). It was a very close-knit community where everybody knew everybody and they all helped each other in times of need. I remember being put on the train to go to residential school in the fall of 1965. After a year, I returned and the community was experiencing many changes as a result of the Hydro invasion of our community. Hydro had plans to build a megadam at the Kettle rapids and with this construction came a population explosion of over 4000 workers. While they were building the dam a few miles away on kiché sipi, Hydro rebuilt the town over the existing community.
Hydro contracted to have the community infrastructure built as well as building modern amenities; such as, a hospital, school, town administration building, recreation centre, shopping centre, water treatment plant, sewage lagoon and treatment plant, and an airport. With all this construction going on, Fox Lake and its people were subjected to many abuses, racism, and discrimination throughout the community. We had become strangers in our own town. The tactics used by the construction workers were heartless and deliberate – bulldozing homes to clear the area for sewer and water infrastructure and a road system with street lighting. Many people were given scant notice to gather their belongings and were left homeless – a complete disregard for the Indigenous people’s lives. And that was the beginning of makeso sakaihikun’s rocky relationship with the province’s antagonistic, arrogant Crown corporation, Manitoba Hydro. These deplorable actions by Manitoba Hydro and its contractors caused insufferable conditions and contributed to makeso sakaihikun people to experience stress and anxiety resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and historical trauma response (HTR). These trauma-induced conditions have led to intergenerational trauma as the trauma is passed onto successive generations.
“Manitoba’s first foray into hydroelectric generation was the construction of the Minnedosa River Plant in 1900 (Bateman 2005) on the Minnedosa River (now known as the Little Saskatchewan River), servicing the City of Brandon operating for eight months of the year” (R. Wera and T. Martin in T. Martin and S. Hoffman, p 58). “The first hydroelectric generating station constructed on the Winnipeg River was the Pinawa Generating Station completed in 1906” (R. Wera and T. Martin in T. Martin and S. Hoffman, p 58). “The cost of electricity decreased from 20 cents to 3.3 cents per kWh and set a precedent” (R. Wera and T. Martin in T. Martin and S. Hoffman, p 58). “The Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board Development Act was passed in 1945. The Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board was established in 1949 to consolidate the province’s production and distribution facilities. (Manitoba Hydro).
Once Manitoba Hydro was created and received its mandate to provide long-term, low-cost, reliable energy, the Crown corporation turned its attention to northern Manitoba to study the enormous potential for hydroelectric development on kiché sipi. In 1963, two pivotal decisions occurred that firmly established Hydro’s plans to construct hydroelectric generating stations on kiché sipi: first, “the Province of Manitoba and the Government of Canada entered into a cost-sharing agreement to investigate the feasibility of constructing large-scale hydroelectric development on kiché sipi” (S. Hoffman in T. Martin and S. Hoffman, p 109); and second, “Hydro commissioned a study to investigate the economic feasibility of developing hydroelectric generating stations on the lower kiché sipi” (S. Hoffman in T. Martin and S. Hoffman, p 109).
makeso sakaihikun ininewak (Fox Lake people) occupied the northeast of what is now known as Manitoba and practiced their millennia-old, traditional vocations of hunting, trapping, fishing, berry-picking, and medicine gathering. The people lived in Gillam using it as their primary place of residence. makeso sakaihikun ininewak travelled extensively in a circular route within their Traditional Territory following game using dog teams in winter, canoes and boats in the summer and they lived in cabins in ‘their area’ while trapping, hunting, and fishing. Many families did this in collaboration and this is how traditional knowledge was passed down from generation to generation as ‘learning the ropes’ was accomplished by watching and actively participating in the setting of traps and fishing nets, the building of blinds, and observing the animals, birds, and fish to determine their migrations and habitat.
People participated in the traditional activities of their ancestors – hunting, trapping, fishing, berry-picking, and medicine gathering. People would go out in the spring to hunt niska (geese) and in the fall to hunt moswa (moose) and in the winter, for atik (caribou). The atik migration route was by the CN Kettle bridge crossing the river at its narrowest and there were thousands, “so many you can hear them breathing from far away”. The people knew when and where to go fishing, and how in the proper season, for a myriad species of fish – lake trout, pickerel, jackfish (northern pike), and the biggest and best of all, namao (sturgeon). Trapping was done in the winter and the cache of furs were sold at fur auction houses which provided money to buy necessities and a few indulgences. There were many berry-picking spots (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, ma-hi-sti-gon (bighead berries), and others) all around the community to kiché sipi and toward Landing Lake. There was such a bounty that people would share and no one went hungry in the community.
kiché sipi and many other rivers and streams that feed into it within the Traditional Territory were essential travel ways for Indigenous people for millennia. These waterways were used to get around as the people went about their daily living. They camped along the shorelines while hunting, trapping, and fishing. When Hydro began their construction activity, the local people were not consulted, were not considered, and were not informed as to what was happening. As construction continued, the Indigenous people realized that the river was being dammed. This frightened many of them as they considered the river as their road. They had no idea of what the purpose of a dam was and they thought that the water was going to be forever blocked and the river downstream would dry up.
The people were completely stressed out from the damming of kiché sipi and Hydro did not advise the local population what their intentions were. They did not take into consideration how the Indigenous people relied so heavily on the river system for travel. The Indigenous people knew how to navigate the river and where the danger spots were. With the construction of Kettle, the river was forever changed and the people did not recognize the new water regime as the forebay flooded miles of kiché sipi upstream. Hydro also changed the river downstream by their controlling of the water – blocking the flow and releasing water – always changing the water level, so that the river was unrecognizable. The Indigenous people have to continuously relearn where the danger spots are and they also had to relearn the fish habitat. In the winter, the continuous changing of the water level made the ice on the river unstable and created pockets that were dangerous to travel on.
After many years of negotiations, makeso sakaihikun, Manitoba Hydro, and the Province of Manitoba signed a Settlement Agreement in December 2004. This agreement was to settle all matters regarding adverse environmental effects within makeso sakaihikun’s Traditional Territory from Hydro ‘development’ since construction started in 1966 at Kettle and continued through to Long Spruce and the completion of Limestone in 1990. The Province of Manitoba also contributed to the Settlement Agreement for their participation as the owner of the Crown Corporation responsible for all the damages incurred upon makeso sakaihikun and its people.
In May 2009, makeso sakaihikun and Manitoba Hydro signed off on a negotiated Adverse Effects Agreement which “addresses and resolves all past, present, and future Keeyask Adverse Effects on makeso sakaihikun, all impacts of the Keeyask Project on the collective rights and interests of makeso sakiahikun and its Citizens, and all impacts of the Keeyask Project in the exercise of Aboriginal and Treaty rights by makeso sakaihikun and its Citizens.”
In May 2009, Manitoba Hydro and four Cree Nations (tataskweyak, War Lake, York Factory, and makeso sakaihikun – collectively known as the Keeyask Cree Nations) agreed to a partnership agreement to construct the Keeyask Generating Station at Gull Rapids. There were six components to the agreement negotiated over a number of years.
Despite all the ‘development’ Manitoba Hydro has completed on kiché sipi and all the social, health, and cultural upheavals makeso sakaihikun ininewak have experienced, we have survived and are still here and will continue to be here in our Traditional Territory. Despite the trauma inflicted on our people, we have learned from the past and we are learning to heal and we are taking more clearly-defined steps to protect our people from future ‘development’. Despite the adverse social conditions within the community, makeso sakaihikun is being more proactive in engaging with other members of the community to address and develop a mutually-agreed solution to have a more cohesive community. makeso sakaihikun has taken steps to increase their visibility and presence within the townsite of Gillam to allow outsiders to know that they are entering our Traditional Territory. makeso sakaihikun and its people are resilient and have withstood all the various abuses heaped upon them and are determined to heal from this and are in the process or rebuilding their community and their ties to the land and water.