Research Papers and Articles

Since 2015, the Alliance has been able to fund researchers and students’ projects, who have been studying the implications and impacts of hydro development not only in Manitoba, but in other parts of the world as well. They have been working to fill gaps in knowledge, as well as provide a voice to community members in their research. We’re really glad to have them work alongside community members, allowing them to learn from one another and provide valuable research in areas with often little documentation. Please find some of the project-funded work our researchers and students have published below!

Damming Rainy Lake and the Ongoing Production of Hydrocolonialism in the US-Canada Boundary Waters

By Johann Strube and Kimberley Anh Thomas in 2021

Abstract: Transboundary water governance between the United States and Canada – a historically described as cooperative and harmonious – has been instrumental to Settler colonialism and the dispossession of Indigenous
peoples around the Great Lakes. At Rainy Lake, on the border between the American state of Minnesota and the Canadian province of Ontario, transboundary water governance supported a binational, Settler colonial joint venture through which European-descended Settlers established themselves in this area. It allowed for the construction of hydroelectric dams that enabled industrial development but also damaged ecosystems and species on which local Ojibwe and Métis communities depended, particularly the lake’s wild rice (Zizania palustris) stands. We reconceptualise transboundary water governance in the region by expanding the framework of hydro-hegemony to include relations between Canada, the United States, and Indigenous Nations. By recognising Indigenous Nations and Settler colonial states as having equal status in political negotiations around the use of water, our analysis reveals negative hydro-hegemony between the United States and Canada on one side, and Indigenous Nations on the other. We advance hydrocolonialism as a framework for describing these relationships. Hydrocolonialism persists through the ongoing exclusion of Indigenous Nations from nation-to-nation diplomacy; this exclusion is particularly embedded in the functioning of the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty and the International Joint Commission which it established

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What Is Lost and What Is Gained: A Travelogue of Tours of Hydro-Affected Communities in Northern Manitoba

By Jessica Jacobson Konefall, Peter Kulchyski, Ramona Neckoway in 2020

Abstract: In 2014, Peter Kulchyski and Ramona Neckoway began touring hydro-impacted Ininew communities. This now annual hydro tour is an intense seven-day circuit filled with long drives, boat tours, discussion, revelation, outrage, and—above all—kindness and generosity. Relationships on the hydro tour involve engagement with bush dispositions, with ways of life developed in and through an engagement with the temporalities, spatialities, subjectivities, languages, and knowledges of egalitarian gathering and hunting peoples. In the city, hydroelectricity is taken for granted; it is seen through the possessive, instrumental rationality that underlines people’s roles as workers and citizens. This contrasts with the face-to-face encounters between community- and urban-based activists, artists, and academics that occur during the hydro tours. Those participating may witness Ininew performances and embodied practices that are both culturally specific and fundamentally human. The relationships developed on the hydro tour enact performances of care and vulnerability in which ethical concern responds to festering social wounds. Perceiving vulnerability and responding to it with care is labour, the work of relationship. Distribution of social wealth is unequal, raced, and gendered, yet it can be transformed through caring practice; such transformations require Ininew leadership.

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Non-Indigenous Involvement in Indigenous Performance Arts: A Starting Point for Reconciliation?

By Emily Henderson in 2019

Abstract: This thesis investigates whether non-Indigenous individuals can be participants in the Indigenous performance arts field in order for the work to contribute to the reconciliation process in Canada. A questionnaire and an interview was administered to the Indigenous and non-Indigenous production, performance and audience members of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s 2014 production Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation i) to determine whether there are appropriate roles for non-Indigenous performers in any aspect of Indigenous performance ii) to ascertain if the Indigenous performance arts can be used as a space for cross-cultural collaboration and iii) to establish ethical best practices for non-Indigenous individuals to be participants in this field. The interviews determined that non-Indigenous individuals can be participants in Indigenous performance arts. However, it is recommended that first, an effort should be made to recruit and offer roles to qualified Indigenous artists, in addition to verifying that the performance is a productive space for cross-cultural collaboration in order to work toward the goal of reconciliation. In regard to ethical best practices, the participants’ responses resulted in the creation of four protocols: Indigenous Community and Elder Involvement, Education, Indigenous Culture and Ceremony, and Personal Reflection which should be enacted in every cross-cultural collaboration in order to ensure its success. The thesis concludes that cross-cultural collaboration in the Indigenous performance arts is a productive space for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to contribute to the conversations of reconciliation.

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Failed partnership to future partnership: an examination of social impacts moving from institutional failure to partner with Indigenous communities to a new model of partnership

By Erin Yaremko in 2018

Abstract: This thesis examines the deep systematic connections between First Nations people and the destruction of land and water in northern Manitoba. Using life story interviews as its main sources, it brings voice to those affected, allowing those who directly experienced these historical events to tell their side of the story in their own words and their own way. The thesis argues that Manitoba Hydro and the Provincial government of Manitoba used colonial strategy in forcing the people of Chemawawin Nation and South Indian Lake off their original land to produce hydroelectric development along bordering water systems. Both Manitoba Hydro and the government of Manitoba failed to create proper resource management-based partnership with the people of South Indian Lake and the Chemawawin Nation. Social impacts directly related to the physical destruction of the original land and water systems developed over time to affect both the people of Chemawawin and South Indian Lake. These social impacts include: Loss of sustainable employment, water transportation safety issues, loss of community connection and safety, increase in physical and mental health problems, and higher levels of alcohol and drug abuse.

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Developing Dispossession: Infrastructure, Cultural Production and Legal Discourse in Treaty 3

by Caolan Barr in 2018

Abstract: This thesis examines how dispossession was produced for Anishinaabeg communities of Treaty 3 through interlocking processes of legal discourse, cultural production and development. It traces the genealogical origins of infrastructure through a series of dams built across Northwestern Ontario from 1871 until 1926. In Treaty 3, the discursive foundations for infrastructure and development were laid through a series of expeditions and legal decisions that justified and facilitated settler expansion. Likewise, development involved a set of mutually constitutive and reciprocal forms of epistemic, ontological, symbolic and material violence. In this work, I argue that dispossession is structural to settler colonialism and the defining feature which ties a set of seemingly disparate histories and processes together in Treaty 3. Recognizing gaps in the literature and colonial archive, I call for the development of new practices of inquiry that allow us to provincialize and unsettle the normativity of colonial violence and narratives.

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Learning the Language of the River: Understanding Indigenous Water Governance with O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, Northern Manitoba, Canada

by Asfia Gulrukh Kamal, Joseph Dipple, Steve Ducharme, Leslie Dysart in 2018

Abstract: Hydroelectric “development” in Canada has been criticized for the lack of meaningful consideration of community perspectives. This article shares the case of the O-Pipon-Na-PiwinCree Nation (OPCN) in northern Manitoba, Canada, and the impact of mainstream water resource management strategies over their culture and livelihood. Through consideration of Kistihtamahwin, OPCN’s concept of water governance, as well as the promises made in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), this article argues that the lack of meaningful consultation and engagement with local resource users as well as the concept of Kistihtamahwin has led to the destruction of a successful fishery, which resulted in severe socioeconomic loss, environmental degradation, and cultural loss in the community. We found that for meaningful application of UNDRIP in Indigenous water governance, local cultural strategies and traditional knowledge are essential.

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“Where the Otters Play,” “Horseshoe Bay,” “Footprint” and Beyond: Spatial and Temporal Considerations of Hydroelectric Energy Production in Northern Manitoba

By Ramona Neckoway in 2018

Abstract: Manitoba Hydro is a public utility located in Manitoba and operates a vast hydroelectric network in Manitoba. Energy produced in northern Manitoba is carried south through an intricate web of transmission towers, lines and other facilities. The vast hydroelectric network throughout Manitoba cuts across many indigenous territories and the regions discussed within this study in northern Manitoba are the homelands of Ith-in-e-wuk (Cree peoples). The histories and timelines discussed as part of this study point to widespread and far-reaching implications and impacts related to energy production in northern Manitoba. A number of indigenous communities in northern Manitoba have experienced micro (individual) and macro (collective) impacts related to the production of hydro power and many Ith-in-e-wuk have experienced impacts on their lands, livelihoods and in their communities. Thus, many places, sites and histories have been greatly affected. This study aims to chart a chronology of hydroelectric energy production in northern Manitoba. It also seeks to inscribe a critical perspective concerning hydroelectric energy production in northern Manitoba and aims to carry forward the decolonizing traditions, ushered in by the Cree who became the Northern Flood Committee in the mid 1970’s.

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NEB Hearings

By Stephane McLachlan, David Scott, Aimée Craft, Ramona Neckoway in 2018

About: A cross-cultural critique of the socio-environmental dimensions of the Manitoba Minnesota Transmission Project (MMTP), as presented for the National Energy Board (NEB)  Hearings in 2018. The report was prepared to inform the NEB by providing written and oral evidence in regards to the MMTP hearings.

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Implications of hydroelectric partnerships in northern Manitoba: do partnership agreements provide social licence?

By Joseph Dipple in 2015

Abstract: Over the past century, Manitoba has promoted the construction of hydroelectric dams as a means of producing energy. These projects are produced on Indigenous territory and bring these communities into direct conflict with the province and Manitoba Hydro. Recently, Manitoba Hydro has promoted partnerships with affected First Nations. These partnerships provide communities the “opportunity” to purchase shares of the dams with the goal of gaining profits. Partnerships have been established for two projects as a means of suggesting social licence. Social licence is an informal licence provided by a community to show support and consent for a project in their area. A progressive definition of social licence is when communities provide “free, prior, and informed consent.” Partnership agreements in northern Manitoba do not provide social licence, as the communities involvement in the project, and the means by which the partnership is established do not provide “free, prior, and informed consent.”

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The Keeyask hydro dam plan in northern Canada: a model for inclusive indigenous development?

By Melanie O’Gorman and Jerry Buckland in 2015

Abstract: This study uses content analysis of an environmental hearing to examine different views on the construction of a hydro dam in northern Manitoba. We found both support for and opposition to the Keeyask dam project, a partnership between the hydro utility and four First Nations communities. Proponents noted the project’s inclusive model and employment and revenue benefits for local people. Opponents warned of negative impacts on the environment and psycho-social health, and the risks of working with a utility that has a bad track record. While Keeyask is an improvement over past projects, the partnership will require vigilant monitoring and implementation-to-plan if the benefits are to flow to indigenous people.

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Additional Research Articles

Please find additional work by various projects over time all highlighting the impacts of hydroelectric development below.

Anderson, C. R., & McLachlan, S. M. (2016). Transformative Research as Knowledge Mobilization: Transmedia, Bridges, and Layers. Action Research, 14(3), 295–317.

Bakker K, Hendriks R (2019) Contested knowledges in hydroelectric project assessment: The case of Canada’s Site C Project. Water 11(3): 406.

Bielawski B, Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation (1993) The desecration of Nanula Kué: Impact of the Talston hydroelectric development on Dene Soline. Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Ottawa, Canada.

Calder, R. S. D., Schartup, A. T., Li, M., Valberg, A. P., Balcom, P. H., & Sunderland, E. M. (2016). Future Impacts of Hydroelectric Power Development on Methylmercury Exposures of Canadian Indigenous Communities. Environmental Science and Technology.

Chodkiewics, J-L., Brown, J., Eds. First Nations and Hydroelectric Development in Northern Manitoba. Winnipeg: The Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies.

Cox S (2018) Breaching the peace: The Site C Dam and a valley’s stand against big hydro. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.

Desbiens, C. 2013. Power from the North: Territory, identity, and the culture of hydroelectricity in Quebec. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Evenden M (2009) Site C forum: Considering the prospect of another dam on the Peace River. BC Studies 161: 93.

Feit, Harvey A. (2014). “Hunting and the Quest for Power: Relationships between James Bay Crees, the Land and Developers.” Native Peoples: The Canadian Experience. Fourth Edition. Eds C. Roderick Wilson and Christopher Fletcher. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Fitz, D. (2019, December 3). Dammed Good Questions About the Green New Deal. Common Dreams. Retrieved from

Fox, C. A., F. J. Magilligan, and C. S. Sneddon. 2016. “You kill the dam, you are killing a part of me”: Dam removal and the environmental politics of river restoration. Geoforum 70:93–104.

Griffith, J. 2017. Hoover Damn: Land, labor, and settler colonial cultural production. Cultural Studies <-> Critical Methodologies 17 (1): 30-40.

Hoffman, S. and Martin, T. Eds. (2008). Power Struggles: Hydro Development and First Nations in Manitoba and Quebec. Winnipeg: U Manitoba P.

Jacobson Konefall, J., Kulchyski, P., Neckway R. (2020). What is Lost and What is Gained: A Travelogue of Tours of Hydro-Affected Communities in Northern Manitoba. Canadian Theatre Review. 182: 22-25.

Joshi, D., Platteeuw, J., Singh, J., & Teoh, J. (2019). Watered down? Civil society organizations and hydropower development in the Darjeeling and Sikkim regions, Eastern Himalaya: A comparative study. Climate Policy.

Kulchyski, P. (2008). A Step Back: The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and the Wuskwatim Project. Power Struggles: Hydro Development and First Nations in Manitoba and Quebec. Eds. Hoffman, S. and Martin, T. Winnipeg: U Manitoba P.

Kulchyski, P. (2013). Aboriginal Rights are not Human Rights. Winnipeg: ARP.

Kulchyski, P., & Neckoway, R. (2006). The Town that Lost its Name: The Impact of  Hydroelectric Development on Grand Rapids, Manitoba. Doing Community Economic Development. Eds Loxley, J., Silver, J. & Sexsmith, K. Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

Loney M (1995) Social problems, community trauma and hydro project impacts. Canadian Journal of Native Studies 15(2): 231-254.

Loo T, Stanley M (2011) An environmental history of progress: Damming the peace and Columbia Rivers. Canadian Historical Review 92(3): 399-427.

Macfarlane, D. and Kitay, P. 2016. Hydraulic imperialism: Hydroelectric development and Treaty 9 in the Abitibi region. American Review of Canadian Studies 46(3): 380-397.

McCully, P. (1996). Silenced rivers: the ecology and politics of large dams. Silenced rivers: the ecology and politics of large dams.

Quinn F (1991) As long as the rivers run: The impacts of corporate water development on native communities in Canada. Canadian Journal of Native Studies 11(1): 137-154.

Scott, C., Nasr, W. (2010). The Politics of Indigenous Knowledge in Environmental Assessment: James Bay Crees and Hydro-Electric Projects. Cultural Autonomy: Frictions and Connections. Eds Rethmann, P., Szeman, I. & Coleman, W. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Sneddon, C. (2015). Concrete revolution: large dams, cold war geopolitics, and the US Bureau of Reclamation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Strube, J., & Thomas, K. A. (2021). Damming Rainy Lake and the ongoing production of hydrocolonialism in the US-Canada Boundary Waters. Water Alternatives, 14(1), 19-41.

Thompson, S. (2015). Flooding of First Nations and environmental justice in Manitoba: case studies of the impacts of the 2011 flood and hydro development in Manitoba. Manitoba Law Journal, 38(2), 220–259.

Treaty 8 Tribal Association (2014) Site C Clean Energy Project joint review panel hearings—Summary report Treaty 8 First Nations.

Waldram J (1988) Native people and hydroelectric development in northern Manitoba, 1957- 1987: The promise and the reality. Manitoba History 15: 1.

Waldram J (1988) As Long as the Rivers Run: Hydro Electric Development and Native Communities in Western Canada. Winnipeg: U Manitoba P.

Yazzie, M.K. and Baldy, C.R. 2018. Introduction: Indigenous peoples and the politics of water. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, Society 7(1): 1-18.

Young, D. (1992). People and Land in Northern Manitoba. In University of Manitoba Anthropology Papers (pp. 13–19). Winnipeg, Manitoba; University of Manitoba.

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