Museum eyes band’s complaint about water


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THE story of Shoal Lake 40 and Winnipeg's water supply is headed for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/11/2014 (2990 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE story of Shoal Lake 40 and Winnipeg’s water supply is headed for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

“They are ready to acknowledge there was an injustice and a violation of human rights,” said Daryl Redsky, one of three First Nation officials to attend a meeting at the museum Thursday.

The 90-minute meeting is part of a process the museum and the First Nation have been at for months, both sides said through other officials.

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files Shoal Lake 40 Chief Erwin Redsky is excited his First Nation and the museum are working together to highlight issues surrounding Winnipeg's aqueduct.

“We’ve jointly identified a number of potential action areas for exploration,” museum spokeswoman Maureen Fitzhenry said by email Thursday.

She added the museum is looking at putting together a public program in the new year that will tell the story of how Winnipeg got its water supply and how the Ojibway were affected.

Shoal Lake 40 First Nation is one of two First Nations affected by the aqueduct built 100 years ago. It rendered Shoal Lake 40 an isolated island.

While the City of Winnipeg has had clean drinking water from that area for a century, Shoal Lake 40 has been on a boil-water advisory for nearly 20 years and is barred from most development to keep Winnipeg’s water safe.

No proper bridge has ever been built over the canal, so the band is an island in summer and treacherous to reach in winter. It’s expected the First Nation will push for the museum to recognize the stories of nine band members who died crossing the lake in winter.

The right to clean water is a primary theme at the museum.

Officials from both sides were not ready Thursday to speak about the details under discussion.

“It’s not a display or an exhibit, which would take months or years to develop,” Fitzhenry added. “Rather it’s a facilitated cultural opportunity. And other possibilities are being explored.”

The Shoal Lake 40 community is delighted with the museum’s interest.

“We’re discussing how the museum will put our story out,” said Redsky, who is on a committee the First Nation struck for the museum talks. “It’s the beginning of a relationship,” he said, adding he spotted a reference to Shoal Lake in the Indigenous exhibit at the museum yesterday.

The museum addresses the right to clean water in several exhibits, including the Indigenous Perspective gallery that refers to the importance of water and the land from an aboriginal point of view. “In the Canadian Journeys gallery, an exhibit linked to a large photo in our image grid is specifically about water for First Nations and includes Free Press photos,” Fitzhenry said in her email.

The two sides jelled late this summer when Shoal Lake 40 pitched a teepee at The Forks overlooking the museum site to publicize its cause. The museum supplied firewood for the camp and delivered fruit and cookies, a Shoal Lake 40 supporter said Thursday.

Weeks before, Shoal Lake 40 asked the museum to acknowledge human-rights abuses it says it has suffered due to the aqueduct.

In response, museum officials visited the First Nation in July just as community leaders were exploring ways to get their message out about past and current human-rights violations in the area.

— with files by Mary Agnes Welch

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