Research Projects

The Alliance is working together to accomplish meaningful research and project outcomes related to hydropower impacts. These research and community projects are guided by the community and funded (entirely or partially) by the SSHRC Partnership Grant that breathed life into this research alliance.

Below is a list of our completed and ongoing projects.

Northern Manitoba & Hydropower Impacts Graphic Novel

Ad Astra Comix

This project is currently ongoing

Ad Astra Comix will produce a high quality, full length graphic novel about the impacts of hydroelectric development in Manitoba’s northern communities, in consultation with the Hydro Alliance steering committee. The comic will be written and researched by Hugh Goldring in partnership with Peter Kulchyski, and illustrated and designed by Nicole Marie Burton. Currently, the graphic novel will tell the story of a fictional occupation below the dam at Grand Rapids, with people coming from hydro-affected communities all over the north. The graphic novel will be geared towards readers 12 and up, more specifically towards youth and people in the South. The story hopes to provide a record of community and family experiences, and engage those unfamiliar with the impact of Manitoba Hydro’s actions in the north. Ad Astra Comix will also be donating their royalties (10% of list price on every sale of the book) to hydro-affected community initiatives, distributed at the discretion of the Wa Ni Ska Tan Steering Committee.


For Love of A River: Two Stories of Loss and Longing, Mini-Documentary

Interchurch Council on Hydropower

This project has been completed

“For Love of A River: Two Stories of Loss and Longing” is an 18-minute film that documents Elder Ellen Cook’s account of hydro impacts at Grand Rapids (Misipawistik) and Chemawawin, as well as the story of the Kitchekeesik family of Split Lake (Tataskweyak) who grew up in the area to be flooded by the Keeyask dam. The project was taken on by Interchurch Council on Hydropower, a Winnipeg based NGO. The Mennonite Central Committee of Manitoba provided additional funding for the project, Brad Leitch filmed and edited the film, and boat owners in Split Lake and Chemawawin graciously contributed their time and transportation services.

Project Outcomes

  • The film was shown publicly in Winnipeg and Morden. Copies were distributed in the north and the film is available online.
  • 200 hard copies of the film were distributed in hydro-affected communities in Manitoba. Copies were also sent to Indigenous people in the vicinity of the Site C Dam in British Columbia and the Muskrat Falls Dam in Labrador, as well as to key decision-makers within the Manitoba provincial government and the Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board.
  • The documentary was made available to Manitoba teachers in ICH’s education package.
  • The film was shown at 5 workshops, reaching over 400 people, and in the first month of its release over 685 people visited the film’s webpage.

The documentary can be viewed HERE

Legal Research and Knowledge

Jerch Law

This project is currently ongoing

This project is funding two articling students to conduct preliminary research and analysis to inform the drafting of two legal memoranda. The first memorandum will explore and address the issue with respect to Tataskweyak Cree Nation’s (“TCN”) signature on, and agreement to, the Adhesion to Treaty 5. The second memorandum will explore the legal status of the implementation agreements. This research will inform further discussion on the issues and possible action steps.


Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective

Lake Winnipeg Foundation

This project is ongoing

One of the common concerns being brought to the forefront of LWIC’s meetings since 2014 is the impact of hydropower development on traditional livelihoods, and on the health of Lake Winnipeg, including shoreline debris, erosion, and the degradation of water quality and fish habitat. LWIC recognizes that traditional ecological knowledge in First Nations communities is a valuable resource to identify environmental impacts, inform policy and resource development decisions, and create sustainable and effective action plans for the future. This project consisted of two phases. Phase 1 included employing a student to assist in gathering elders and local fishermen in two host communities, documenting impacts to traditional spawning areas, mapping significant habitat locations, conducting site visits, gathering recommendations, and compiling the data into a comprehensive background study for each community. Using these studies, Phase 2 explored engineered solutions and will provide a written and oral report with recommendations to each community on the feasibility of fish habitat rehabilitation projects moving forward.

Project Outcomes

  • LWIC successfully partnered with Fisher River Cree Nation (FRCN) to develop a survey to gather traditional and local knowledge of fish and fish habitat in the Fisher River traditional territory.
  • 82 knowledge holders signed up to be interviewed
  • 3 community members were trained and hired to conduct surveys
  • Several areas were identified as important fishing and spawning areas and the data on impacts to fish and their habitats is currently being analyzed and summarized to provide recommendations to the community.

The most important outcomes of this project are gathering, documenting, and summarizing traditional and local knowledge on the impacts to fish and fish habitat in Lake Winnipeg and its tributaries. This data will be a crucial that will inform Lake Winnipeg policy, decision making, impact-benefit agreements with project proponents and First Nations consultations from an Indigenous,grassroots perspective on the impacts being felt in communities.

To Read more about the project and its outcomes, click HERE


Exploring Indigenous Financial Inclusion & Hydro in Australia

Jerry Buckland, Canadian Mennonite University

This project has been completed

From July through December 2016 Jerry Buckland was on a 6-month research leave from Canadian Mennonite University’s Menno Simons College. He is working on various projects including a 6-week research tour in Australia to explore efforts there to promote Indigenous Financial Inclusion (an area of research that looks at the causes and consequences of having little or no access to mainstream banking) and Indigenous co-management of natural resources. 

The study tour provided an opportunity to share the work of the Wa Ni Ska Tan Hydro Alliance with Australian researchers and explore the hydro issues facing Australia and their responses to these large development projects. A specific focus will be the co-management of natural resources. Jerry will be visiting the Cape York Resource Management Organization in Cairns that is active in innovative co-management of natural resources. 


Grand Rapids Documentation and Archival Project

Gerald McKay, Grand Rapids

This project is currently ongoing
This purpose of this project is to preserve historical pictures and articles that were written before the construction of the Grand Rapids dam. This will include what life was like before the dam was built, the fishery that was said to employ one thousand workers at Horse Island, the trapping industry at Summerberry marsh, and the importance of the rapids to the community, physically and economically. The project will involve Grade 12 students from Grand Rapids School and include outreach to former residents who have moved to Easterville, Selkirk, The Pas and Winnipeg.


Pickerel Narrows First Nation Elders' Lodge

Elders Gordon (Sr.) and Irene Bighetty, Pickerel Narrows First Nation

Jack Lovell, PhD Candidate with advisor Stef McLachlan

This project is currently ongoing
This project is focused on the preservation and enhancement of Indigenous spiritual and cultural identity and is intended to help retain and preserve the uniqueness of the Pickerel Narrows First Nation (PNFN) community despite the many long years since their unexpected displacement. The main activity of this project is the construction of an Elders’ Lodge to be located on the “Thunder Ground” camp-site on the shore of Granville Lake on PNFN tribal lands. This is the site of their annual Sun Dance. The intent of the Elders’ Lodge is to provide a safe and holistic place throughout the year where elders, adults, and youth are to made welcome to share their knowledge and pass on the critically important ‘core Indigenous knowledge and spirituality’ to preserve a way of life that is being threatened with cultural assimilation from ongoing effects of colonialism.


Mapping Geographically and Spatially Northern Manitoba Hydro-Impacted Indigenous Communities’ Traditional Environmental Knowledge

Victoria Grima, Graduate Student with advisor Stef McLachlan

This project is currently ongoing

The current understanding of environmental changes caused by hydroelectric development is limited because the scientific world has ignored, not consulted or inadequately incorporated Indigenous Traditional Environmental Knowledge in their research. The aim of this research project is to combine Western technology and knowledge with Traditional Environmental Knowledge to fully comprehend the effects of hydro development on the shorelines and tributaries of the Great River and Nelson River, as well as the direct lifestyle changes of Indigenous communities because of these physical changes.

The proposal lays out four specific objectives:

1) identification and documentation of changes through time of hydro-related environmental impacts;

2) spatial documentation on the effects of hydro developments on indigenous traditional cultural land-use and harvesting practices;

3) research on adaptations of traditional land-use and harvesting practices; and

4) analysis of geographical correlations.


Sagkeeng & Peguis High School Land Based Education

Allan Courchene, Educator

This project has been completed

Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School and Peguis Central School are joining forces for a week of land-based education at Nutimik Lake in Whiteshell Park Provincial Park in late May 2017. They are bringing together 30 students from each school to teach their youth about the impacts of the seven dams built in their territory along Lake Winnipeg. They will learn about fish ladders and elevators and the impacts of sturgeon spawning areas. They will also participate in learning their cultural heritage and land-based skills such as medicine picking, bannock making, fish filleting, etc… Hikes, swimming, and games are also going to be part of the outdoor adventure.


Sundance and Manitoba Hydro’s (Re)settlement Regime

Jonathan Peyton, University of Manitoba, and Matt Dyce, University of Winnipeg

This project is currently ongoing

This is an archival research project that examines the social, economic, and environmental effects of Manitoba Hydro company towns and abandoned landscapes, with an initial focus the abandoned town of Sundance. Sundance was built in the mid-1970s for housing labour and infrastructure of the Limestone Dam. Three objectives of the research are the: 1) development of a historical record of company towns built by Manitoba Hydro; 2) use archival materials to develop further case studies on other abandoned towns; and 3) development of community partnerships. The aim of the project is to show that the management of water in Manitoba has been as much about the management and production of a wet landscape as it has been about the management of people, populations and land.


Archival and Oral History Research Project: Cross Lake, South Indian Lake, Grand Rapids, and Easterville

Erin Yaremko, Graduate Student with advisor Jarvis Brownlie

This project is currently ongoing

This research project plans to build a collection of oral history, focusing on merging traditional Cree storytelling practices with oral history techniques and technology. The project will work with four communities in Northern Manitoba: Cross Lake (Natimik, Wapak and Saggitawak), South Indian Lake (O-Pipon-Na-Piwin), Grand Rapids (Misipawistik), and Easterville (Chemawawin). The research will explore how life story interviews can be incorporated into community healing processes through the use of a community archive centre. This research will be used as part of a graduate thesis and assisting the four communities in creating or expanding their community archive centres.


An oral history and analysis of experiences and future opportunities in O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation (South Indian Lake)

Leslie Dysart, Community Association of South Indian Lake

Ian Mauro, Melanie O’Gorman, Alan Diduck, and Jerry Buckland – U of Winnipeg

This project is currently ongoing

This research project is a partnership between the Community Association of South Indian Lake (CASIL) and the University of Winnipeg. The project is focusing on the creation of a film and oral history about hydro development in the community of South Indian Lake. This Cree language oral history will explore the perspectives of hunters, trappers, fishers and other local residents to better understand their lived experience with hydro through five short films.

1) A film capturing conversations with Elders regarding the impact of the flooding of South Indian Lake

2) A film discussing the collapse of the fishery as a result of hydroelectric development

3) A film on Wuskwatim and the politics surrounding the creation of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation

4) A discussion of the tactics used by Manitoba Hydro to ‘divide and conquer’ community members in order to reduce resistance to hydroelectric development

5) A film on youth visions for the future in South Indian Lake and how this future will involve hydro.


Harvesting on the Churchill River: Indigenous sovereignty and the harvesting lifestyle in Northern Manitoba

Joseph Dipple, PhD Candidate with advisor, Peter Kulchyski

This project is currently ongoing

The objectives of this doctoral research are to review the implications of hydroelectric development’s vast and wide-ranging impacts on the Ininiwak harvesting lifestyle in northern Manitoba, to learn from and experience the harvesting lifestyle first-hand, provide recording opportunities for this form of knowledge, gain an understanding of unique perspectives of land to both individuals and communities, gain knowledge about the importance of respectful relationships to the land, and to support the knowledge of Ininiwak harvesters as experts.