Sapotaweyak Cree Nation sets up teepee to protest Bipole III transmission line


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A western Manitoba First Nation set up a teepee in the path of Bipole III this weekend to protest Manitoba Hydro's decision to push the line through its treaty entitlement land.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/01/2015 (2987 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A western Manitoba First Nation set up a teepee in the path of Bipole III this weekend to protest Manitoba Hydro’s decision to push the line through its treaty entitlement land.

And at least one other First Nation set up its own teepee in a gesture of solidarity Sunday.

The occupation is peaceful with about 30 people at the main camp in a clearing next to Highway 10 between Swan River and The Pas, Sapotaweyak Cree Chief Nelson Genaille said by phone from the site Sunday. A sacred fire for tobacco offerings was lit at the site to signal the peaceful intent.

“Our people are now standing up for their rights and interests,” Genaille said in a statement.

A second teepee stands deeper in the bush. Both cross the path of crews cutting a 200-kilometre stretch intended for the line. The crews that are cutting the line work for a Métis economic development company that won the contract to clear the land, which is also claimed by the Manitoba Metis Federation.

A Court of Queen’s Bench ruling Jan. 14 denied Sapotaweyak Cree Nation’s bid for an injunction to halt the work.

“I have exhausted the diplomatic and legal routes to voice our concerns against this project. And regrettably, the Manitoba Ministers and Manitoba Hydro bigwigs did not take our concerns seriously,” the chief said.

Manitoba Hydro said in a statement Sunday that it considers the action a blockade.

“At this time we are evaluating the potential impact of the protest on our work in the area. Clearing work will continue where possible,” said Hydro spokesman Scott Powell.

“Manitoba Hydro is reaching out to both the protesters and community leadership to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” he added.

Hydro will continue to evaluate its options and assess the situation, said the spokesman, noting the legal options are firmly in Hydro’s favour.

“The community recently went to court to request an injunction to stop work on project, but the courts denied the request,” Powell said.

The land the transmission line cuts through contains Sapotaweyak burial grounds and sacred sites, according to the chief.

Genaille said he hopes crews will respect the occupation and not try to skirt the teepees in an effort to resume work. “They’d be making more access points and destroying more land,” he said.

Genaille said community leaders from a second First Nation in the area, Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation at Indian Birch, set up a teepee Sunday at another location on the hydro line in a gesture of solidarity. About 20 people are at the Indian Birch site.

“Northern and southern communities are getting wind of this and they could possibly come here also. I’ve spoken to private landowners, local communities and farmers and I’ve told them we all stand as one here,” Genaille said.

The path for Bipole III cuts through Crown land located between Swan River and The Pas.

Manitoba highway workers dropped off road signs for Sapotaweyak to alert passing traffic of the occupation, and RCMP visited the main site of the occupation Saturday, the chief said.

Sapotaweyak is located 400 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.


Updated on Sunday, January 25, 2015 5:14 PM CST: adds more details

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