Pimicikamak occupation of the Jenpeg dam

Last Wednesday (October 15), more than 100 people from the Cross Lake First Nation (Pimicikamak Cree Nation), located north of Lake Winnipeg, occupied the grounds of the Jenpeg hydro-dam. Chief Catherine Merrick said the First Nation is taking control of its traditional territory and evicting Manitoba Hydro.

APTN reports, “A small group has been occupying the grounds of the Jenpeg Generating Station since late September, but over the past two days hundreds have joined in. The station is located near the Cree community of Cross Lake, over 700 km north of Winnipeg.”

In a letter to the Crown corporation, Chief Merrick says, “You do not respect our rights. You do not even respect or acknowledge who we are as people. Money and profit — that which you make off our traditional territory and people — is apparently all you care about. …[You have used] these treaty lands for your own purposes regardless of what we, as the original title-holders, would have to say about it.” Chief Merrick adds, ​”The hydro system floods 65 square kilometres of Pimicikamak land and causes severe damage to thousands of kilometres of shoreline. Outlying grave sites have been washed away; Pimicikamak people have died as a result of semi-submerged debris from eroding shorelines and unsafe ice conditions caused by hydro. The project has turned a once bountiful and intimately known homeland into a dangerous and despoiled power corridor.”

CBC reports, “The protesters, from Pimicikamak Cree Nation, delivered an oversized evicted notice on Friday [October 17] to staff at the station and the employee housing complex, both of which are located on the Nelson River in Pimicikamak territory.”

Last May, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that Manitoba may build more dams. That’s because the pumping stations for the Energy East pipeline and the Alberta Clipper pipeline would require much more energy than Wuskwatim, the province’s newest dam, can produce. So two new dams may be built — the Keeyask generating station by 2019 and Conawapa by 2026. The Keeyask dam would be located about 725 km northeast of Winnipeg, where Gull Lake flows into Stevens Lake, and would flood approximately 46 square kilometers of boreal taiga lands.

This Thursday at 4:30 p.m. CDT a Pimicikamak delegation will hold a rally outside the Manitoba Hydro building on 360 Portage Avenue to demand “Hydro and governments honour their decades-old promises of environmental clean-up and fair treatment.”

For more on the occupation, please see the Pimicikamak Occupation of Jenpeg Facebook page.

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Brent Patterson

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer. He has worked in solidarity with revolutionary Nicaragua, advocated for the rights of prisoners in jails and federal prisons, taken part in civil...