Since 2016 Wa Ni Ska Tan has funded research and community projects that explore or help mitigate the impacts of hydropower. We have accepted proposals three times a year since then with proposals being reviewed by the Research Steering Committee. Please see project outlines below.
Norway House Youth Camp 2016
Norway House Cree Nation with WHA Youth Camp Sub-Committee
The first ever Wa Ni Ska Tan Hydro Alliance Youth Camp was held in Norway House Cree Nation over five days in early August 2016. There were 30 participants from over eight communities across Manitoba. During the camp youth engaged with elders, asked questions about their communities and learned about traditions and their land. The camp served as an opportunity to discuss the impacts of hydro development on culture, families, and the environment. Throughout the five days there were opportunities to participate in sweat lodge ceremonies, medicine gathering, beading workshops, elders’ teachings, and a photo-voice project. This first Hydro Alliance Youth Camp will serve as an excellent model for the years to come. Friendships were formed and the conversations had with one another—short and long—helped our first camp develop into something that really affected and inspired us all.
Financial Inclusion & Hydro in Australia
Dr. Jerry Buckland
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.
Northern Manitoba & Hydro Graphic Novel
Ad Astra Comix (Nicole Burton & Hugh Goldring) with Peter Kulchyski
This project will produce a high-quality, full-length graphic novel (a long-form comic book) about the impact of hydroelectric development in Manitoba’s northern communities and the people who live there. This 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. This story is meant to be a narrative device for putting indigenous people at the centre of the story. It will be accessible to readers 12 and up, and serve to provide a valuable record of community and even family experiences. The stories told in the graphic novel will be produced in partnership with the Hydro Alliance Committee to ensure the greatest possible accuracy. It will also act as an educational tool for Southern communities unfamiliar with the impacts of hydro development in the north.
Revenue Sharing Initiatives
Dr. Melanie O’Gorman with post-doctoral researcher Rosa Sanchez and undergraduate student Alexandra Schofield
The dams more recently constructed by Manitoba Hydro have involved partnerships with First Nations communities. These partnerships and the other compensation deals that have been negotiated by Manitoba Hydro do not address the socio-economic problems present in most hydro-affected communities, including housing shortages, mass unemployment, poverty and food insecurity (Loney, 1995). A new approach for hydroelectric benefit-sharing is needed that would work towards bringing the socio-economic developments that affected First Nations desire. Such benefit-sharing would involve payments on an annual basis to all hydro-affected communities and individuals.
This project will estimate four potential sources of revenue for financing regular, global benefit-sharing. These sources are river rental revenue, profit-sharing with Manitoba Hydro, a dedicated hydroelectric rate increase and a heating subsidy scheme. In addition to estimating these potential revenue sources, this research project will complete socio-economic profiles of a number of communities that have been deeply affected by Manitoba Hydro projects, and provide an illustration of what such revenue could achieve in these communities.
Legal Resources & Knowledge
Jerch Law with articling students Shelby Thomas & Tamara Reimer
This project will fund two articling students to conduct preliminary research and analysis to inform the drafting of two legal memoranda. The first memorandum would 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 would explore the legal status of the implementation agreements. This research will inform further discussion on the issues and possible action steps.
Nelson House Youth Camp 2017
Justice Seekers of Nelson House with PhD Candidate Ramona Neckoway
The 2017 Wa Ni Ska Tan Hydro Alliance (WHA) youth camp, taking place in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, can be viewed as an extension of the inaugural WHA Youth Camp which was held in Norway House Cree Nation in August 2016. The camp is a land-based gathering for youth between the ages of 14-17 and offers an opportunity to bridge knowledge between elders and camp participants in a land-based setting. It is estimated that between 40-60 Indigenous youth from various hydro affected First Nations communities, including youth from communities located in the south area of the province, will have the opportunity: (1) to visit a hydro affected First Nation community; (2) have the opportunity to learn land-based/cultural activities; and (3) learn about the impacts and effects of the activities/developments carried out by Manitoba Hydro.
For Love of a River: Two Stories of Loss and Longing Documentary
Interchurch Council on Hydropower
For Love of a River is an 18-minute mini-documentary that tells two stories of how hydropower projects affect rivers and the people who love those rivers.
Story One: The Kitchekeesik family of Tataskweyak Cree Nation is at the epicentre of the most costly infrastructure project in Manitoba history. For them, the area where the Keeyask Dam sits and the area it will flood is home. It is where they grew up and remains for them the most precious place on earth. Three of these sisters, along with two of their husbands as well as Robert Spence travelled with us to two cabin sites in the area, the place where their brother died many years ago, and as close to the dam as we could get.
Story Two: The other story told in the film is of Ellen Cook and the Grand Rapids Dam. Ellen is a member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation and was a young girl when the dam was built very near her family’s home. To tell Ellen’s story we visited Grand Rapids as well as the neighbouring community of Chemawawin, which was relocated as a result of the Grand Rapids Dam. We visited the Old Post from which the community was moved. Ellen hadn’t visited the Old Post since her youth. Ellen concludes her telling of the experiences of these sister communities by stating her belief that the dams will not last forever and one day the rivers will flow again.
Treaty & Water Rights Education
Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective
This project will help build capacity in First Nations surrounding Lake Winnipeg through education on aboriginal and treaty rights with respect to water. The 1-day seminar will provide an overview of Treaties 1, 3, and 5, key environmental legislation in Canada, the environmental assessment process, the duty to consult, and UNDRIP. This legal knowledge will help inform policy and resource development decisions in these communities. This project will involve contracting an expert in indigenous law to perform the 1-day seminar for the members of the LWIC steering committee and/or the chief and council in their respective communities (to be coordinated in October 2017 and held in November 2017).
Traditional Spawning Habitat Study
Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective
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 will consist of two phases. Phase 1 will include 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 will explore engineered solutions and provide a written and oral report with recommendations to each community on the feasibility of fish habitat rehabilitation projects moving forward.
“Where the Otters Play” to “Horseshoe Bay”: Hydro Electric Generations and Footprints in Northern Manitoba
Ramona Neckoway, PhD Candidate
Ramona’s doctoral work focuses on the impacts and effects of hydro-electric system in northern Manitoba. One component of her research aims to chart the growth of this system. Another aspect involves documenting perspectives on the system as understood and experienced by Ithinewuk who have been directly affected by it. This research is a work in progress and the direction of the research may continue to evolve and transform.