From Both Ends of the Pipe: A Conversation

From Both Ends of the Pipe: A Conversation

The following dialogue was recently published in a special edition of Intotemak, “Yours, Mine, Ours: Unravelling the Doctrine of Discovery.” ANGELINA MCLEOD is Anishinaabe kwe from Shoal Lake 40 First Nation in Treaty 3. Ange is a Water and Land Defender. CHUCK WRIGHT is a white settler living in Treaty 1 territory, Winnipeg, Manitoba. He is a full-time member of the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity team of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Upon invitation to contribute to this issue, Ange and Chuck got together for coffee to discuss the relevance of the Doctrine of Discovery to the experience of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, and what it might mean for Winnipeggers and churches today. Winnipeg receives its drinking water from Shoal Lake through a 135-kilometre aqueduct, and an historic dispossession that remains unresolved to this day. Here are some snippets from this conversation: ANGE: In 1914, the Greater Winnipeg Water District began construction of the aqueduct without prior consultation or consent from the people of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. Settlers assumed the land was given to them by God, and that they had the right to build the aqueduct on Anishinaabe lands and to use Shoal Lake water. At the time, they believed the land was largely uninhabited, “with the exception” according to the surveyors report, “of a few Indians.” The government decided to forcefully isolate my community onto a man-made island in order to obtain their water source. Today, we are still isolated. We have to rely on a ferry in the summer and an ice road in the winter. Many community members risk their lives just to get...
When you turn on the TAP… pray for the GAP

When you turn on the TAP… pray for the GAP

Report on Freedom Road December 8, 2016 Last fall, tens of thousands of Canadians voiced solidarity to confront the systemic injustice of a 100-year relationship between the City of Winnipeg and Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. Fresh water from Shoal Lake has benefited our city and province while costing the people who live there their traditional way of life, their economic viability, personal safety, essential services like safe drinking water and waste disposal and the safety of their children who must live away from home to go to school. Last fall, three levels of government committed to sharing the costs of building Freedom Road. That was an event worth celebrating. However, significant gaps remain. Until the physical gap is bridged (Freedom Road), Shoal Lake 40 remains dangerously isolated. In recent memory, nine people have died for lack of safe access to the mainland. Any more delays cause real risk. There remains a financial gap. Even though appropriate governments have agreed to share costs, our newly elected Provincial Government is reviewing a signed community benefits agreement, which could unfortunately mean losing a construction season. More importantly, there is a moral gap. Everyone who benefits from Winnipeg’s fresh water supply has a moral responsibility to acknowledge that our prosperity has come at the expense of our neighbours. Last year, the city of Winnipeg transferred $32 million in income from Shoal Lake fresh water into its general revenues. Indeed, national Christian leaders are beginning to speak out. Terry Smith, Executive Director of Canadian Baptist Ministries, wrote an open apology to Canada’s First Nations: “…we acknowledge our ongoing complicity through our failure to...
Freedom Road: From Charity to Responsibility

Freedom Road: From Charity to Responsibility

Blog post by Moses Falco If you were to walk down the streets of Winnipeg and ask random people where their water comes from, and they were to respond with, “Shoal Lake,” I would be proud. If those strangers were then to go on to explain that Winnipeg’s water extraction has caused the forced isolation and boil water advisory of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, I would be amazed. That would mean that the work of Shoal Lake 40 advocates over the past 100 years has finally paid off. It would mean that settler allies of Shoal Lake 40 have played their small part in bringing awareness to those living on the other end of the aqueduct. There has been a lot of activity and momentum behind the building of Freedom Road, which will finally bring Shoal Lake 40 out of forced isolation and prevent even more lives from being lost. There have been rallies, marches and demonstrations. The local and national media have covered this story on high priority. Winnipeg’s mayor, our Prime Minister and David Suzuki are some of the notables who have visited the community. We have put pressure on all three levels of government to pledge their support in real dollars to the building of the road. And hundreds of churches have shown their support to fix this injustice that has gone on for far too long. Although things are moving slowly, it seems inevitable that Freedom Road will actually be built. Shoal Lake 40 will finally have a safe way to access the mainland to go to work, for their children to get to...
Road to Reconciliation: Reflections on the Freedom Road Campaign

Road to Reconciliation: Reflections on the Freedom Road Campaign

by Samantha Klassen (Students for Freedom Road Leader) Originally published in Doxa Volume 17 Issue 3​ November 2015 ** all photos by JamesChristianImagery It is a remarkable thing to find yourself in a watershed moment, realizing the gravity of what is transpiring around you, acutely aware that things will never be the same. I found myself in the middle of one such moment of gravity on Friday, October 30, in a sharing circle in the community hall on the Shoal Lake 40 reserve. With me were a handful of SL40 community members, around twenty Winnipeggers from various community organizations, and six or seven city councillors who had come with the purpose of touring the Museum of Canadian Human Rights Violations and seeing for themselves just where Winnipeg’s fresh water comes from. For most, this was not the first introduction to Shoal Lake 40. Winnipeggers have known about the boil-water advisory for decades and the people of SL40 have made their need for an all-weather road to connect them to the mainland and the Trans-Canada Highway known. Marches have been held in the streets of Winnipeg, a sacred fire was kept outside the Canadian Museum of Human Rights at its opening, and their story has been told and retold in Winnipeg newspapers. Yet their island isolation has persisted, their expensive reliance on bottled water has not yet been alleviated, and they risk death by drowning simply to cross to the mainland for groceries. In the past year their fight has finally begun to pick up momentum among community groups in Winnipeg. Less than two months ago, Students for Freedom Road was...
Momentum Building for Shoal Lake 40’s Freedom Road

Momentum Building for Shoal Lake 40’s Freedom Road

By: Chuck Wright (Christian Peacemaker Teams) & Christie McLeod (Mondetta Charity Foundation) Friends of Shoal Lake 40 Recent announcements from the Mayor’s office and a journey with City Councillors and supporters to Shoal Lake 40 confirm that with demonstrable public support, the construction of an all-weather access road dubbed “Freedom Road” may happen as soon as this winter – which in Chief Erwin Redsky’s words is “a matter of survival… [and] a matter of our most basic human rights.” At a Shoal Lake 40 panel held this past Thursday at the University of Winnipeg, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation member and Consultation Office, Daryl Redsky, shared about the challenges of living in an isolated community that lacks the basic services most Winnipeggers take for granted. As he stated, “things that are an inconvenience for you are 10 times worse for us.” Over the past year, Winnipeggers have taken notice of the situation in Shoal Lake 40, and believe it is a valuable opportunity to begin to reconcile relationships with the First Nations people of our country. After all, it was the City of Winnipeg’s utility that displaced Shoal Lake 40 members in 1914 to build the aqueduct and intake works that diverts drinking water to Winnipeg. Persistent indifference to this systemic injustice — an injustice that has precipitated the community’s 18 year boil-water advisory — showcases the institutionalized racism that persists in our country and our city. This past September, nearly 1,000 Winnipeggers gathered at the Legislative Building to partake in Winnipeg Water Walk, an event that called for hard commitments from the local, provincial and federal governments towards...
Report on City Councillors’ Trip to Shoal Lake 40 First Nation

Report on City Councillors’ Trip to Shoal Lake 40 First Nation

(Saturday, Oct 31, 2015) Today I’m feeling about as serene as this photo I took yesterday out at Shoal Lake… because today is a rest day after a fruitful week. Last week, close to 4000 mostly Winnipeggers signed a petition supporting public funds for the construction of Freedom Road—a 17 mile provincial grade road linking Shoal Lake 40 First Nation to the Trans Canada Highway, which will redress their century-long imposed isolation and make possible a water treatment plant to end a boil-water advisory they’ve lived under for 18 years. Yesterday, seven city councillors, plus support staff, business leaders, and representatives from the various civil groups that have arisen in support of Freedom Road, met at a church parking lot on the outskirts of Winnipeg at 8:30 in the morning, and crammed into three vans to travel together to Shoal Lake 40. The purpose was to meet with the community there, to engage with people and their story, and to better understand how the aqueduct that supplies Winnipeg with its drinking water has been so devastating to the community that has lived on that land since time immemorial. It was a surprisingly upbeat trip. The councillors were all high spirited, in part because the day before, Mayor Bowman had issued both public and private statements in essence giving his blessing to the trip and reaffirming his commitment to redress a century-long wrong in order to begin a new era of mutuality with our friends and neighbours at Shoal Lake 40—a community which, by the way,  has a name, not just a number: Kekekoziibii (Hawk River). It was rather unbelievable to witness the grace and...

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