Graphic testimony about the human and environmental costs of Manitoba Hydro’s dams and reservoirs was submitted to the ITC by Tataskweyak Cree Nation in what is known as Manitoba, Canada (Split Lake).

Tataskweyak Cree Nation has a long history of connection to its ancestral lands and waters:

“The forefathers of Split Lake Cree were hunters and gatherers who lived off the rich resources of the lands and waters. Their way of life centered around the lakes and rivers where wildlife and plant resources could be harvested. Fish were a particularly important source of food and were abundant.The Cree were a water people. Living along the shores of the lakes and rivers, they hunted and fished, and gathered herbs and berries from along the shoreline. The lakes and rivers were the roads by which they travelled. The waters, the shorelines, the shallows, the marshes, the riverbanks and willow thickets supported the fish, plants and animals that fed and sheltered them.”

“Centuries of occupation and use of the lands and waters enabled the identification and selection of the most useful and fruitful areas for residence and harvesting, in keeping with the rhythms of the seasons. Prior to European contact, Cree people were living in and around Split Lake – which in Cree is called Tataskweyak, meaning ‘the place of tall trees’.”

“In the 1920’s, Split Lake was still not a permanent settlement for most First Nation members, many of whom continued to live in the bush and return to the community only during Christian holiday seasons and the summer. About 100 people lived year-round at Split Lake.”

The Nation describes the impact of the provincial government’s state owned monopoly, Manitoba Hydro, on their lands, waters and lives:

Our traditional values and customs came under increasing pressure during the 1970s, as the consequences of increased modernization and contact with the outside world were felt. From the Split Lake Cree perspective, hydroelectric development was by far the most profound agent of change, causing both major physical impacts on the lands and waters, as well as the resulting undermining of the essence of Aboriginal practices and customs.

Tataskweyak Cree Nation supplied water quality sampling results showing toxic water pollutants caused by Manitoba Hydro’s river system diversions making the water unfit for drinking and swimming. Toxins found in surface waters are contaminated cause gastroenteritis and neurological disorders. A water treatment plant does not conduct provide adequate testing.  Water sampling results:

Water Quality Sampling Conclusion

The water pollution causes skin rashes on children and lesions and tumors on fish, and harms mammals, as shown by photographs from Tataskweyak Cree Nation, August 14, 2020. These photos are graphic in nature and are available here.

Canadian hydropower operations also harms wildlife and is causing extinction of species that are not only globally significant but that play a central role in the physical and spiritual life of local communities.

Councilor Robert Spence describes how Manitoba Hydro “robs the lower reaches of the Churchill River of vital amounts of flows” needed to “ensure the survival of the endangered Churchill River Sturgeon” which “have all but gone extinct from this lake.” This water is diverted to create hydroelectricity for export to the United States, Mr. Spence reports.

“I personally have seen sturgeon breaching the surface of the water as if to say good bye from this lake forever. This is very disheartening and very sad to explain to all of the elders who have also seen these Sturgeon there. To see their tears as we had to explain this to them. Some of them have passed on now not ever having seen another Churchill River Sturgeon.”

“The other known population of endangered Churchill River Sturgeon was known to have existed at Redhead Rapids just upstream of the mouth of the Hudson Bay and below Swallow Rapids that is below the confluence of the Little Churchill River. This population has gone extinct about 30 years ago now. You see I am 50 years old and my birthday is November 10, 1969 my 51st birthday is coming up and I have seen sturgeon populations go extinct from certain reaches along the Churchill River go extinct in my lifetime. This makes me sad to know our younger generations will not know of the culturally important Churchill River Sturgeon in their lives.”

Robert Spence Testimonial, August 14, 2020