Growing up on an island, living off of the plants and animals that surrounded oneself, instills a deep and spiritual connection and respect for the land as a giver of life. Carol Kobliski carries this connection with her, that she developed as a young girl living in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. Carol spent a lot of time learning from her grandparents. Her grandfather was a senator, acting as a middle man between the government and the community. From a very young age she learnt a great deal about development and the undertaking of projects from overhearing grandfather’s conversations. At the time she may not have understood it all, but as she grew older she began to learn why her grandfather’s job was important.
Today Nelson House presently owns 33% of the Wuskwatim dam, a hydroelectric dam built by Manitoba Hydro. The land Carol has learned from has grown unfamiliar, with cysts in the moose and beaver, and the water being unsafe to drink or swim in. Not only has the land been altered, so has her community. When hydro began construction, people were healthy. Now a rise in drug and alcohol misuse has altered the relationships between people in her community, and between people and the land.
With the community having to take loans (with interest rates as high as a whopping 36%) against their shares in hydro, leaders in Nelson House finally admitted that building Wuskwatim was not a good deal for the community. The impacts to the land and people of Nelson House could fill a long list of broken promises by Manitoba Hydro. “Everything is rushed all the time, but that isn’t proper consultation. We need to consider everyone and everything that is affected by these projects,” Carol says. If willing, the relationship their community has with Manitoba Hydro could be repaired, however everything they are going through remains hidden by corporate smokescreens, in an effort to pretend that the operations of Manitoba Hydro have been successful on all fronts.
“We are all connected and affected by these projects, we have to take care of what surrounds us,” Carol reminds us. It is time Manitoba Hydro cleans up their mess properly, they can no longer flood their mess over with the water. Water moves, and things resurface, everything will wash up on the shore soon.
Know History Inc. (2016). Hydroelectric Development in Northern Manitoba. A History of the Development of the Churchill, Burntwood and Nelson Rivers, 1960 – 2015. Presented to the Clean Environment Commission.