Cree blockade halts access to Manitoba Hydro sites
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/05/2016 (2511 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A group of Fox Lake Cree Nation members has blocked access to three Manitoba Hydro sites because they say sacred ceremonial land near the sites was desecrated.
The road blockade began Thursday morning at the junction of the reserve and Highway 290, blocking access to Hydro’s Limestone Generation station, Keewatinohk Access Gate and Henday Converter Station.
The blockade comes after members of the band discovered ceremonial land, adorned with prayer flags and tobacco ties, was destroyed. Several trees were uprooted, flags were found on the ground and the tobacco ties were disrupted, said Chief Walter Spence of Fox Lake Cree Nation.
The flags and ties had been placed by members of the Cree Nation in November as part of a ground-breaking ceremony to honour the land before construction began by Manitoba Hydro on the reserve; Manitoba Hydro participated in the ceremony.
The remote Cree Nation is about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
“We were just horrified because for the past few decades now, whenever Manitoba announces they are going to start construction, there is an agreement that our people would do a sacred ceremony because we know Manitoba Hydro is changing the landscape,” Spence said.
“We are shocked that it occurred one more time and when we reported it to our band members they were quite hurt and we decided we needed to take social action.”
A similar incident was reported by the Cree Nation in 2007, when a burial site was disturbed by Manitoba Hydro crews working on stripping the land.
Spence said he has reached out to Manitoba Hydro and has been informed the Crown corporation’s CEO, Kelvin Shepherd, would visit the site on Friday morning. Spence said they will not remove the blockade until Shepherd visits the site.
“He will address the members and the elders and our members and elders will also have the opportunity to speak with him,” Spence said.
Manitoba Hydro spokesman Scott Powell said they are taking the incident seriously and investigating the cause of the damage to the ceremonial site.
“We are not sure what happened there. We had some staff in the area when the tower went up and the clearing was completed, but the tree was left alone and the last we know it was in good shape, but it is in an area that can be easily accessed,” Powell said.
He confirmed Shepherd would visit the site Friday, adding Thursday’s weather prohibited Shepherd from visiting on the day the blockade began. Powell’s hope is the blockade will end after Shepherd’s visit.
The blockade hasn’t impacted ongoing work at the three sites as the workers live in camps on the sites, but has blocked access in and out of the sites for Hydro’s 280 workers.