This June, community members, researchers, and NGOs met in Norway House Cree Nation for our annual Spring Gathering. Over the course of four days over eighty people from 19 Métis and First Nations communities came together to discuss and address the impacts of hydropower. Youth and elders were well represented, and it was a privilege to hear everyone’s stories and work together on steps to move forward.
The gathering kicked off on an evening filled with excitement! Dancers from Christina Cater Memorial Square Dancers kept up the energy in the room, and Clayton and Ryan D’Aoust played music for all to enjoy. Dinner was served and informal networking took place, while people danced and sang along to the fantastic entertainment provided.
Thursday morning began early with a sunrise ceremony. Formal introductions followed, giving everybody a chance to get to know one another. An annual recap was presented, providing updates on research projects and proposals, previous events, and the governance structure of the Alliance. Research posters were also displayed with some of the work that is supported and initiated by the Alliance. Attendees were encouraged to mingle with researchers and each other to find out more about potential collaboration with future projects.
Over the past year there has been a growing consensus that the name of the Alliance didn’t quite reflect the people and the goals it represents. Many involved with the Alliance had also noted that the name Wa Ni Ska Tan Hydro Alliance can sometimes draw confusion among newcomers and outsiders. A process for the name change transpired, allowing everyone at the gathering an opportunity to both vote on and suggest a new name for the Alliance. Voting began on Thursday and continued throughout the week. The results were close, and many great suggestions were brought about. The new name for the Alliance had been decided, and thus we have Wa Ni Ska Tan: An Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities!
The afternoon followed up with a presentation from Sujata Manandhar, Lorraine Stick and James Allen. They provided insight into the implications of hydroelectric development on Champagne & Aishihik First Nations, and the present co management process. Drawing comparisons between the Yukon and Manitoba they helped to provide a valuable discussion on management and impacts.
Jarvis Brownlie from the University of Manitoba concluded the afternoon with a presentation on archiving and documentation. He addressed questions regarding who has access to information, how it is being used, and discussed how he uses research to benefit communities involved with the WHA. His research works to identify and collect relevant material to shed light on impacts, give an overview of materials that already exist, and to make as much available as possible where necessary.
Friday morning consisted of breakout sessions, allowing for more intimate group discussion and action planning. The three breakout groups focused on water power act licensing, health and wellbeing, and water sampling. This allowed everyone to have their voices heard among the group, and brainstorm potential actions for the future.
During the afternoon everyone was invited to get outside and attend either a community tour of Norway House or a medicine walk. The community tour’s first stop was the Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Centre, followed by the Hudson’s Bay Archway Warehouse, and an up close and personal look at Norway House’s York Boats. The medicine walk collected an abundance of traditional plants around Norway House.
Saturday began with a review on the previous days’ breakout sessions, ensuring everyone was up to date on what actions might be developed in the future. The day continued with another round of breakout sessions, and did not conclude as early as anticipated. Due to a broken ferry the group was stuck in Norway House a tad longer than expected. The community of Norway House went above and beyond, providing everyone with another night in the hotel. Our caterer was also extremely flexible, providing us with another evening of delicious dinner and dessert! Everyone remained hopeful and in good spirits, as they bonded over card games, coffee and fishing, eventually going home Sunday evening.
The annual spring gathering provided the Alliance with strong guidance for future action. A huge thank you to everyone who came out to the gathering, and to Norway House for their accommodation and generosity in our extended visit. We cannot wait for what’s in store for the Alliance over the coming months! Please look out for a summary of research and action outcomes that we’ll be sending soon.
Thank you to all of those who provided feedback for our evaluation. Your input helps us make next year better. Interested in what people said? Click here to see evaluation feedback.