Fox Lake Cree Nation blocks road access to 3 Hydro sites

A northern Manitoba First Nation has put up a road block to keep Manitoba Hydro workers from three sites.

First Nation suspects Manitoba Hydro involved after sacred site damaged

Fox Lake Cree Nation has blocked Highway 290, preventing workers from accessing three Manitoba Hydro sites. (Fox Lake Cree Nation)

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.

Elder Lillian Neckoway and Chief Walter Spence at the Fox Lake Cree Nation road block. (Fox Lake Cree Nation)
"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.

Chief Walter Spence says these prayer flags were on the trees before they were cut down by Manitoba Hydro workers (Fox Lake Cree Nation)
"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.

A member of the Fox Lake Cree Nation was out quadding when he found that the ceremonial site had been desecrated. (Fox Lake Cree Nation)
"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.

A Fox Lake band member found these ceremonial tobacco ties on the ground, destroyed. (Fox Lake Cree Nation)
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.


Jillian Taylor is the Executive Producer of News at CBC Manitoba. She started reporting in 2007 and spent more than a decade in the field before moving behind the scenes. Jillian's journalism career has focused on covering issues facing Indigenous people, specifically missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She is a born-and-raised Manitoban and a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation.