Nisichawayasihk Cree blockade Wuskwatim Hydroelectric dam for jobs, Canada, 2009

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Time Period:  
13 August
16 August
Location and Goals
Location City/State/Province: 
Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, Manitoba
Location Description: 
Nothern Manitoba reserve near Nelson House , Manitoba and Thompson, Manitoba
Increased employment in relation to an agreement with Manitoba Hydro and the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, which the protest group claimed was not honoured.

In Canada, there are many First Nations groups with unique languages and cultures. One of those is the Cree nation, who speak Cree and are accustomed to Cree social norms within Canada. Manitoba, a central Canadian province, has a large indigenous popular with high unemployment.

In August of 2009 a group of Nisichawayashich Cree people from a remote area in the northern region of the Manitoba blockaded an access road to the construction site of the Wuskwatim hydroelectric dam. The blockade limited workers and services from entering or leaving the site. The activists wanted more jobs to be awarded to Nisichawayashich Cree workers.

Manitoba Hydro had proposed to build the dam on the Burntwood River near the Taskinigup Falls, with the support of the surrounding communities and the local band of Nisichawayashich. Only 8% of the local band members voted against the arrangement. The energy company expected guaranteed returns on their long-term investment.

The protesters set up the blockade on August 13, 2009. They hoped to reduce and eventually stop any traffic commuting to and from the site, preventing 800 workers from being unable to leave the site for the duration of the protest. Although Royal Canadian Mounted Police were on the scene they did not intervene. The protest remained peaceful and nonviolent.

The Nisichawayashich chief and tribal council said they had not sanctioned the blockade, that the agreement was to hire aboriginals in the region, not only members of Nisichawayashich, and that the agreement was for land usage rather than just resident specific employment.

The blockade continued for 3 days, hindering the movements of workers on the site, as well as material into the work area. The protesters were willing to negotiate. A court injunction was issued to end the blockade.

Manitoba Hydro staff and band members with Ron Evans, the grand Chief of Manitoba at the time, came to an agreement with the protesters to dismantle the blockade. The protesters removed the blockade while Manitoba Hydro continued hiring the way they had been initially, developing an apprenticeship program that included Nisichawayashich band members. Manitoba Hydro eventually hired a total of 2000 aboriginals from the region, 579 of them being qualified workers from the Nisichawayashich Cree Nation.

Research Notes
Byrne, Chris “Native protesters blockade Manitoba dam project” CBC News Manitoba.” 14, August, 2009 online: 14 February 2012 <>, “Wuskwatim dam protesters end blockade” CBC News Manitoba. 16 August 2009 online: 21 February 2012. <>

Manitoba Wildlands, “Wuskwatim Projects” Manitoba Wildlands, 17 February, 2012 online: 21 February 2012 <>

NCN, “NCN Citizens Installing Wuskwatim Turbines and Generators” Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation News release, 2012 online: 27 February 2012

Santin, Aldo “No plans for RCMP to intervene in Wuskwatim dam blockade” Winnipeg Free Press – Online Edition, 14 August 2009, online: 14 February 2012 < Protestors-maintain-blockade-on-Hwy-391-53222322.html >

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Brett Ducharme, 22/02/2012