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PRESS RELEASE NO. 13
Nation Chief John Miswagon: "Hydro Is Breaking our Hearts"
Hydro Electricity Production Harms Indigenous People’s Lives
Canada, 23 July 2003 - A
chief of the indigenous Pimicikamak people narrated here today how a
hydro-electric project in northern Manitoba, Canada, has devastated
the lives of his people. "Hydro is breaking our hearts,"
lamented Chief John Miswagon at the Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran
Canada is the
world’s largest producer of hydro-electricity. Many people in
Canada may brag about this as a major achievement until they
consider the resulting devastation caused by the industrial
complexes to the environment and to the lives of the indigenous
Nelson Rivers’ Manitoba Hydro project was built in early 1970s by
the Manitoba Hydro and the Government of Manitoba to generate
electricity for domestic use and for export to the U.S. Midwest.
Manitoba Hydro reportedly generates more than USD 680 million per
year – 36 percent of it from sales to utility companies of
northern states of the United States.
In 1966 the
Canadian Federal Royal Commission on Aboriginal People’s reported
that the project has "subsequently become well known for its
massive scale and detrimental effect on the northern Manitoba
environment and the Aboriginal people who live there…"
further stated that reserve territories occupied by the indigenous
people had been "either flooded or affected by dramatic changes
to levels in surrounding lakes and rivers," and traditional
land-use areas have been "damaged or rendered
chief of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation of about 6,500 people, claimed
that the project has denied his people of their subsistence –
food, water, shelter and medicine. Shorelines have been washed away
and forests have been swallowed up by rising levels of water, he
hydro-electric system includes dams, generating stations, river
diversions, flooded forests, reservoirs and transmission lines. As
lakes and rivers are flooded, emptied or used, the industrial water
regime destroys the boreal shoreline ecosystem – the most
productive and most sensitive part of the boreal environment, upon
which all the rest depends.
square miles of boreal forest have been flooded and destroyed,
according to a report on the State of the Manitoba Environment
published in 1991. The Pimicikamak, once a healthy society with a
sustainable traditional economy, now has catastrophic unemployment,
mass poverty, despair and one of the highest suicide rates in North
America, according to community leaders.
environmental degradation has gone hand-in-hand with water
pollution, which has made the rivers and the lakes uninhabitable for
fish, he said. "In 1960, there were 30 fresh water lakes in the
area," he said. "Today, there are only 12."
by side with Chief Miswagon, Women’s Chief Eugenie Mercredi could
not hold back her tears as she presented samples of visibly unsafe
water, which, she said, her people drink from the polluted rivers
chiefs acknowledged that Canada has laws to protect the interests
and rights of indigenous populations, but some companies
"violate these laws and get away with it."
Chief Miswagon, Manitoba Hydro has offered to monitor the state of
the environment and to become involved in conservation efforts.
to "the whole world" to work together to restore and
preserve the environment. "We may never be able to make it
right," he said, "but, certainly, we can make it
Pimicikamak have suggested a five-point approach to stop and reverse
the environmental and social mess created by hydro-electric
social impacts of the hydro project (shoreline erosion, mercury
poisoning, greenhouse gases, loss of forests to erosion and
further harmful hydro-electric projects;
development of cleaner and safer energy options, such as
conservation, efficiencies, wind, solar and biomass;
widen respect for indigenous peoples working to protect their
Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is taking place
21-31 July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada, under the theme "For the
Healing of the World." It is being hosted by the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
There are around 820 men, women and youth participants in the Tenth
Assembly including 380 delegates from the
133 churches with full membership and three associate members. The Assembly is the highest
decision-making body of the LWF, and meets normally every six years.
Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by its Council that meets
annually, and by its Executive Committee.
To order photographs, please contact
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