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Cree Nation



more about the Cree nation

Manitoba Hydro speaks 

Cross Lake News Releases

Cross Lake struggles on alone

Diabetes Epidemic in James Bay Cree Communities

Kenny Miswaggon's Statement to MN PUC

Where would the power for this line come from? Look!

Electric customers should have the opportunity to learn of the environmental and human devastation that Manitoba hydro production has had, and that additional power for this line could have on the Cree people. Is cheap power worth the human suffering the Cross Lake Cree must endure? It is time to take responsibility for seeking a more equitable means for producing power if it is truly needed in our state.


This cannot be considered "Green Power"!

 The Pimicikamak Cree

In the Matter of the Exemption Application by Minnesota Power for a High-Voltage Transmission Line Known as the Arrowhead Project - 8/28/2000

David Newman - Provincial Minister of Northern Affairs
"Following the construction of the dam, "all fish disappeared due to the contamination. There is mercury in the water and erosion of the shoreline. A way of life has disappeared. The Province gets revenues for renting water to Manitoba Hydro. We get health problems due to filthy water."

Jason Miller - Pimicikamak Cree Nation Youth Chief
"One of the most important rights that were violated when hydro projects were built on our land, without compensation and without our consent, was the right to water. In Aboriginal tradition, water represents life. Water is our means of navigation, a supplier of food, and the source of our economic viability. We refer to earth as our mother. As our mother, we respect, protect and love her".

Gideon McKay - an elder who lives in the community of Cross Lake along the Nelson River, describes graphically what happened to the land where his family's trapline used to support generations of McKays. "They poured filth over the clean dish that I once had while my kids were eating from there. They took our plate."

Sandy Beardy - Traditional Chief of Pimicikamak Cree Nation
"We know that electric power is very important, but here where the dams are, they are still destroying the environment and our hunting, fishing and trapping way of life. We can't make you understand our loss which you haven't experienced, but we pray that the people of Minnesota and the other states will use their wisdom and knowledge to ask their leaders to stop making contracts with a company that drowns the hopes of our children."

Pros & Cons


    1. Huge Corporations can make extortionary amounts of money wheeling cheap power around the country. 


    1. Millions of acres of traditional Cree land/water altered and destroyed.
    2. 85%-90% unemployment do to their lands being decimated which has destroyed their traditional way of livelihood.
    3. An alarming rate of suicide attempts and successes do to lost hope. (Some say as high as 1 in every 20 people)
    4. Methylmercury contamination of the water, moose, fish and people of Cross Lake.
    5. High rates of substance abuse, Again do to lost hope.
    6. Immeasurable quantities of the powerful greenhouse gas, methane, being released into the atmosphere.
    7. The flooding of one of North America's largest boreal forest.
    8. Mass poverty for the Cree People, because their way of livelihood has been altered. 9. Shoreline Erosion do to unnatural water levels cause old burial sites to be exposed.
    10. Health epidemics do to the drastic change in their life style/diet (Diabetes epidemic especially in the children)

A Cree funeral for Another successful suicide.
85%-90% Unemployment takes it's toll on the Cree people. 

By: Anne Ostberg
Sierra Club North Star Chapter
International Committee

NSP electricity destroying Canadian Cree land

Minnesota-based Northern States Power Company (NSP) buys electricity from a Canadian power company that is destroying 32 million acres of boreal forest and devastating the lives of 12,000 Cree aboriginal people. And the problem is about to get worse.

Since the 1970s, NSP has purchased power from Manitoba Hydro, a government-owned utility that has re-engineered a vast area -- 50,000 square miles, or 32 million acres -- of lakes and rivers to produce electricity. As a result, the north-flowing Churchill River now flows south, and Lake Winnipeg is now a reservoir with controlled water levels. Water is impounded in the summer, creating droughts, and released in the winter, causing floods.

These changes have destroyed wildlife habitat, driving away mammal and bird populations and decimating aquatic plant and animal species. Flooding has also caused permafrost to thaw, which has increased shoreline erosion and siltation in the region’s lakes and rivers. Higher water levels have submerged vegetation, which then decomposes and produces methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – in amounts rivaling that produced by fossil fuels. The decomposition process also has caused mercury, which had existed in an inactive form in local rocks and soil, to transform into the highly toxic organic methyl mercury.

The 50,000 square miles of land re-engineered by Manitoba Hydro covers an area the size of the state of Wisconsin. Much of this land belongs to the Cree people, who were not consulted when the project began in the 1960s. The Crees, many of who supported themselves through hunting and fishing, have found their local economy degraded and their way of life permanently altered by the hydro project. Residents of the area have seen their burial grounds and hunting areas destroyed by the flooding. They also have experienced increased unemployment (now at 85 percent), alarmingly high suicide rates (some reports are as high as one suicide per twenty people), and other less measurable, but equally devastating, impacts on the Cree community and culture.

Manitoba Hydro earns $1 billion a year in gross revenue from the 5,000 megawatts it sells to Northern States Power, which in turn sells the electricity to its customers for an average of 3.2 cents per kilowatt hour. The purchase represents 10 percent of the total electricity NSP sells to its 1.4 million customers in southern Minnesota, eastern Wisconsin and parts of Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota. These low rates, among the cheapest in North America, are possible because environmental and human costs have not been factored into the price.

As a result of the low electrical rates, several American utilities, including Duluth-based Minnesota Power, are proposing to build a major transmission line that could double the amount of power exported from Manitoba Hydro to the United States. Increased electrical production would require additional dams and re-engineered rivers, leading to further flooding and wilderness destruction, and even more damage to the Cree Nation.


WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION HEADQUARTERS, GENEVA, November 30 /CNW/ - A delegation from the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) has just returned from the World Health Organization's Consultation on the Health of Indigenous Peoples. The Cree delegation tabled a report at the WHO meeting in which they denounce the lack of health services and appalling housing conditions which are creating dangerous health problems in two Cree communities in Canada, Cross Lake, Manitoba, and Chisasibi, Quebec.

In addressing the World Health Organization assembly, Romeo Saganash, Envoy of the Grand Council of the Crees, stated: ``The greatest challenge to the health of my people is, ultimately, displacement and dispossession. Poor health, and general spiritual and physical decline of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, are the products of Canada's deliberate, discriminatory, and systemic policies over generations, which continue in the present, of dispossessing Aboriginal peoples of our traditional lands.''

The statement tabled by the Crees pointed to the fact that both the James Bay and Manitoba Crees were displaced from and dispossessed of their lands, and subsequently experienced deterioration of health conditions. Cross Lake, a community of 4500, has experienced more than 100 suicide attempts and 7 completed suicides so far this year, the most recent suicide occurring while the meeting in Geneva was being held. Meanwhile, the community's clinic faces closure from a lack of nurses and doctors, and periodic interruption in the supply of medications, leaving some chronic patients, including three suffering from Parkinson's disease, with unfilled prescriptions.

Such conditions in the Cree communities were reflected in the opening address by Dr. Gro Harlem Bruntland, Director-General of the WHO which lamented the fact that there are ``few examples where (government) actions have reduced the disparities between indigenous peoples's health and that of other peoples within national boundaries.''

In Chisasibi, Quebec, dangerously substandard housing conditions are causing critical deteriorations in asthma, and chronic bronchitis. People living in these moldy, ``sick'' houses had a much larger number of emergency room visits than people who were in other houses. Fifty per-cent of the houses in the village are ``sick'', according to Dr. Robert Harris, a public health physician from Chisasibi, Quebec. A request by the Cree Nation of Chisasibi tabled one year ago has not led to any action by the Federal Government of Canada. Dr. Harris believes this issue goes beyond health. In 1998, the United Nations declared Canada the country with the highest living standards in the world.

Unfortunately, Canada only ranked tenth in terms of equity. ``This relatively large gap between the rich and the poor is most evident in the poor housing conditions of the Canadian Aboriginal population . . . . In Chisasibi, poor housing began as a social issue, became a health issue, and is now a moral issue: a matter of equity, justice and fundamental human rights.''

There was unanimous consensus between the Indigenous Peoples' and World Health Organization representatives that self-determination was an essential pre-requisite for good health. ``Indigenous peoples must be in charge of their own development and this is a fundamental human right,'' stated Professor Dr. Leary, a consultant on human rights at the World Health Organization.

The lack of self-determination leads to chronic disease, according to Professor Dr. Erica-Irene Daes, the Chairperson of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations. ``States' failure to protect indigenous peoples from intrusive settlements and development activities usually results in a catastrophic combination of dietary changes and traumatic stress. . . . Loss of land and loss of freedom, malnutrition and severe stress are inextricably linked.''

The loss of land and rapid changes imposed on the Cree communities by hydroelectric mega-projects constitutes a form of oppression that has led to chronic diseases such as depression, alcoholism, and diabetes. Thirty per-cent of the adults suffer from diabetes, and children as young as 7 years of age are developing what has usually been a disease of adults. Deaths due to diabetes-related kidney disease are on the rise. ``Because oppression, malnutrition, stress and depression comprise inter-connected factors. . . they must all be combated simultaneously as part of an effective overall health strategy. Land is health and oppression is a disease,'' concluded Professor Dr. Daes, and advised, ``The best preventive measure is respect for land rights.''

The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) and the Pimicikamak Cree Nation welcome this endorsement by experts from the World Health Organization of the fact that Canada's deliberate, discriminatory, and systemic policies over generations, which continue in the present, of dispossessing Aboriginal peoples of their traditional lands, has led to the severe health problems that affect the Cree population. The Grand Council of the Crees will continue working towards a partnership with the World Health Organization in order to obtain its technical assistance in areas of primary concern for the Cree Nation.

Hydro Power Development brought Misery, Church Inquiry Told
June 29, 1999
By Carol Thiessen

CROSS LAKE, Man. — Calling the treatment of aboriginal people in Cross Lake a "moral catastrophe," a South African commissioner for a church-led inquiry into northern hydro development acknowledged the intense suffering of the remote community.

"I perceived a pervasive sense of ill health in the affected communities as a result of a destabilization of a very fragile ecosystem," said John Aitchison, who represented the World Council of Churches at the inter-church inquiry.

He made the comments after the close of five days of hearings, held at the end of June, which were sponsored by the Manitoba Aboriginal Rights Coalition (MARC). Mennonite Central Committee is a member of MARC.

Members of a number of aboriginal communities particularly the Pimicikamak Cree Nation of Cross Lake, outside observers, the head of Manitoba Hydro, and the provincial minister of northern affairs, all made presentations at the inquiry. Two and a half days were spent in Winnipeg before moving eight hours north to Cross Lake.

The commissioners will issue a final report by fall.

Major hydro-electric development in the 1970s on the Nelson and Churchill Rivers in northern Manitoba significantly altered the traditional lands and waters of northern aboriginal people. The federal and provincial governments, Manitoba Hydro and five aboriginal communities signed the Northern Flood Agreement in 1977 which was to address negative consequences of the project and provide an alternative economic base.

MARC sponsored the inquiry to promote dialogue between the people of the north where hydro-electric power originates and the people of the south who benefit from the electricity. The inquiry was also a public evaluation of how the adverse effects of development have been addressed.

"The burden of carrying the environmental and social costs for this project have fallen disproportionately on aboriginal communities. Meanwhile, the balance of benefits has gone to non-aboriginal industry and society...," says Lorraine Land, spokesperson for Citizens for Public Justice, who made a presentation at the inquiry.

In Cross Lake, where houses are scattered along the jagged shoreline, the waters of the lake reach within feet of the community hall. Inside, person after person sat before the four commissioners and lamented the loss of their traditional way of life. They spoke with longing of the days of plentiful fish and game, when the waters were pure, and they felt spiritually connected to their lands. They said governments and Manitoba Hydro haven't kept their promises made in the Northern Flood Agreement.

"I grew up in a community where I never heard the word welfare," said Myrna Gamblin, a member of Norway House Cree Nation. "I grew up with brothers and sisters that had a positive outlook on life....All of a sudden everything changed."

Bobby Brightnose also reminisced about his childhood, of how his grandparents taught him the uses of medicinal plants. He recalled going to pick medicines along Cross Lake's shoreline with his grandmother, only to find it flooded. "My grandmother stood there crying because the land was her life," Brightnose said with sadness.

Others spoke of increased illness, skin problems, polluted water, and the mass unemployment and hopelessness pervading their communities. Repeatedly, presenters expressed worries about the bleak future for their children.

As if to illustrate that loss of hope, three people attempted suicide in Cross Lake during the two days of hearings there. One of them died.

David Newman, Manitoba's minister of northern affairs, told the commission, however, that many of Cross Lake's problems existed before the hydro development. He said most community members had already stopped trapping and hunting. "Hydro has played one small, little part in the process relating to the aboriginal people in Manitoba," he said.

Newman, who spoke in Cross Lake, insisted the provincial government has worked hard to alleviate any ill results stemming from the dam project and challenged the Pimicikamak Cree Nation leadership to accept a lump sum financial compensation package. "The Filmon government, I will say, second to none in this country, second to none in the history of this country, has done more to bring these matters forward in positive ways than anyone in the history of this province and this country," he said.

Newman has been critical of church involvement suggesting that it could jeopardize hydro exports and harm the provincial economy. He warned church groups not to cast stones at government actions, saying the church has caused many of the problems in native communities.

But Theresa McKay, a community member listening to the hearings, saw the church-led inquiry as a positive action to create awareness of the problems in Cross Lake and precipitate healing. "It'll do people good that it will be known," she said.

Pimicikamak Cree Nation Chief Roland Robinson agreed in his concluding remarks: "For far too long our people have been beaten up in silence." He said the inquiry is already successful "because it has shown people that someone is listening."

The alternatives for this transmission line are here and are available now! Lets stop this race to profits that would be placed on the backs of the Cree people and on the backs of over 10,000 families here in Wisconsin and Minnesota!