Fox Lake Cree Nation blocks road access to 3 Hydro sites
First Nation suspects Manitoba Hydro involved after sacred site damaged
By Jillian Taylor, CBC News, May 12, 2016
A northern Manitoba First Nation has put up a road block to keep Manitoba Hydro workers from three sites.
Fox Lake Cree Nation Chief, Walter Spence, said the decision was made after a ceremonial site was desecrated.
“One of our members happened to be out on the land and came across the site,” said Spence. “The prayer flags that were tied to trees, those trees were cut down…tobacco ties [were] on the ground as well.”
Spence said Hydro agreed to and participated in the ceremony before starting construction. The tobacco ties and prayer flags signified the land as a sacred site.
He said that area was off limits to Hydro construction workers, as per an agreement the First Nation made with the corporation.
“We were quite hurt by this recent incident, so we decided enough is enough,” said the chief. “We consulted with our elders and they said we have to do something otherwise it will continue.”
Spence said the road block started at 6 a.m. Thursday. They are using heavy machinery to shut down a junction on Highway 290, which leads to three Hydro sites: the Henday converter station, Limestone generating station and Keewatinohk access gate and construction camp.
“We had an agreement that before they would do the construction, we would do our ceremonies and those sites would be protected,” said Spence.
The chief says Hydro agreed to build around those sacred sites, which were marked with the prayer flags and tobacco ties.
“It’s a breach of our mutual agreement to work together,” he said.
Spence said he has spoken to Hydro President and CEO Kelvin Shepherd. He said he feels that Hydro is taking the community’s concern seriously.
“We are patient. We live here. We can remain here until he comes. It’s really up to him. It is a peaceful social action,” he added his band members will stay as long as it takes.
The road block does not affect regular traffic, just work crews trying to access the sites.
Manitoba Hydro investigating incident
Scott Powell, a spokesperson for Manitoba Hydro said, the corporation is taking the incident very seriously.
“We want to move forward in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect,” Powell said Thursday afternoon.
Hydro is doing its own investigation into who may have done this and why, he said. adding that Hydro’s CEO will travel to Fox Lake as soon as weather permits.