Beyond the Conflict: The Reconstruction of the O-Pipon-Na-Piwin First Nation Community in Manitoba

  • Katia Liénafa Université du Québec en Outaouais
Keywords: First Nations, Aboriginal Peoples, Aboriginal Territory, Aboriginal Identity, Band Status, Reserve Housing, Manitoba Hydro, South Indian Lake


In the early 1960s, Manitoba Hydro, along with the governments of Manitoba and Canada, initiated the Churchill River Diversion-Lake Winnipeg Regulation, a large hydroelectric project in Northern Manitoba that adversely affected five Aboriginal communities which ultimately led to the relocation of the community of South Indian Lake. Even though an agreement concerning compensation for the communities was signed in order to mitigate the effects of the CRD-LWR, it did not solve the mounting social, economic, and health problems facing First Nations – especially those faced by the relocated South Indian Lake. Drawing from the experience of the community of South Indian Lake, we examine how traditions and legal constraints are now mobilized and interpreted by the members of the First Nations. We are especially interested in the strategy put forward by the leadership of South Indian Lake to obtain Band status, as well as the community’s innovative efforts to rebuild its relationship with the territory and produce a common culture.


Baker, C., (2004) Presentation made to the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission. Winnipeg. Unpublished manuscript.

Bodaly, R., Hecky, R., and Fudge, R. (1984) Increases in mercury levels in lakes flooded by the

Churchill River Diversion Northern Manitoba. Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 41(4): 682-691.

Canada (1992) Federal Ecological Monitoring Program, Final Report vol 2. Winnipeg: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Central and Artic Region.

Canada (1996). Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Ottawa: Communication group publishing.

Chabot, M. (2003) Economic changes, household strategies, and social relationships of contemporary Nunavik Inuit. Polar Record, 39 (1): 19-34.

Chodkiewicz, J.-L., and Brown, J. (1999) First Nations and Hydroelectric Development in Northern Manitoba. The Northern Flood Agreement: Issues and Implications. Winnipeg: Centre for

Rupert's Land Studies, University of Winnipeg.

CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) (2008) CMHC Loan Insurance on-Reserve. Retrieved June 10, 2009, from CMHC-SCHL:

Coates, K., and Morrison, W. (1986) Rapport de recherche sur le traité numéro 5 (1875-1908). Ottawa: Centre de la recherche historique et de l'étude des traités. Affaires Indiennes et du Nord du Canada.

Cobb, P. (1992) Northern Flood Agreement Case Study in a Treaty Area. Phase II Report Contemporary Aboriginal Land and Environmental Regimes: Origins, Problems and Prospects. Winnipeg: Symbion Consultants.

Dougherty, W. (1984) Rapport de recherche sur les traités: Traités numéros 1 et 2. Ottawa: Centre de la recherche historique et de l'étude des traités. Affaires indiennes et du Nord du Canada.

Duckworth, H. E. (1967) Reconnaissance Study of the Effect on Human and Natural Resources of the Churchill River Diversion Plans. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba.

Duhaime, G. (1991) Revenu personnel, destin collectif. La structure du revenu des Inuit de l'Arctique du Québec, 1953-1983. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 23 (1): 21-39.

Duhaime, G., Auclair, R., Bernard, N., Saint-Pierre, D., Myers, H., and Hansen, K. G. (2003) Les réseaux d'approvisionnement alimentaire des ménages de l'Arctique nord-américain. Québec: Chaire de recherche du Canada sur la condition autochtone comparée.

Flanagan, T. (2008) First Nations, Second Thoughts (2nd edition). Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Friesen, G. (1984) The Canadian Prairies: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Hoffman, S. M. (2002) Powering injustice: Hydroelectric development in Northern Manitoba. In Byrne, J., Glover, L. and Martinez, C. (eds.) Environmental Justice: International Discourses in Political Economy, Energy and the Environment. Somerset, NJ: Transaction Books. pp. 147-170.

Hoffman, S. M. (2008) Engineering poverty: Colonialism and hydroelectric development. In Martin, T. and Hoffman, S. M. (eds.) Power Struggles. Hydro Development and First nations in Manitoba and Quebec. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, pp. 103-128.

Kaalaugue, N. (2001) A coping strategy for Greenland. In Aarsaether, N. and Ole Baerenholdt, J. (eds.), The Reflexive North. Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers. pp. 231-258.

Kulchyski, P. (2008) A step back. In Martin, T.and Hoffman, S.(eds.) Power Struggles: Hydro Development and First Nations in Manitoba and Quebec. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press. pp. 129-144.

Loney, M. (1995) Social problems, community trauma and hydro project impacts. Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 15 (2) : 231-254.

Martin, T. (2003) De la banquise au congélateur: mondialisation et culture au Nunavik. Québec: Presses de l'Université Laval.

Martin, T. (2009) Pour une sociologie de l'autochtonisme. In Gagné, N., Martin, T. and Marie, S. (eds.) Autochtonies. Vues de France et du Québec. Québec: Presses de l'Université Laval. pp. 431-454.

Martin, W. (1975) Letter of the Senior Legal Counsel to the Nothern Flood Committee. Unpublished manuscript.

Niezen, R. (1993) Power and Dignity: The social consequences of hydroelectric development for the James Bay Cree. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 30 (4): 510-530.

NFC (Northern Flood Committee) (1975) Letters Patent. Northern Flood Committee Inc. February 12, 1975.

O-Pipon-Na-Piwin First Nation (OPCN) (2007a) Community School Partnership Initiative Work Plan. South Indian Lake. Oscar Blackburn School, Community School Connector.

O-Pipon-Na-Piwin First Nation (OPCN) (2007b) On our reserve housing. South Indian Lake’s Spring Newsletter, Special Edition. South Indian Lake: O-Pipon-Na-Piwin First Nation.

Prairie Research Associates (2002) Interviews with displaced residents of South Indian Lake: Methodology report and preliminary results. Winnipeg: Prairie Research Associates.

Rodon, T. (1998) Co-Management: Co-optation or empowerment? In O'Meara, S. and West, D. A. (eds.) Indigenous Learning: Proceedings from the Second Biennial Aboriginal Peoples' Conference. Thunder Bay: Aboriginal Resource and Research Centre, Lakehead University.

Simard, J. J. (2003) La Réduction. L'Autochtone inventé et les Amérindiens d'aujourd'hui. Québec: Septentrion.

Tritschler, G. (1979) Commission of Inquiry into Manitoba Hydro. Winnipeg: Commission of Inquiry into Manitoba Hydro.

Van Ginkel Associates (1967) Transition in the North: The Churchill River Diversion and the People of South Indian Lake. Winnipeg: Manitoba Development Authority.

Waldram, J. B. (1980) Relocation and Social Change Among the Swampy Cree and Metis of Easterville, Manitoba. Master Thesis, University of Manitoba.

Waldram, J. B. (1983) The Impact of Hydro-electric Development Upon a Northern Manitoba Native Community. PhD Dissertation, University of Connecticut.

Waldram, J. B. (1984) Hydro-electric development and the process of negotiation in Northern Manitoba, 1960-1977. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 4 (2): 205-239.

Waldram, J. B. (1987) Relocation, Consolidation and Settlement Pattern in the Canadian Subarctic. Human Ecology, 15 (2): 117-128.

Waldram, J. B. (1988) As Long as the Rivers Run: Hydroelectric Development and Native Communities in Western Canada. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

Waldram, J. B. (1999) Falling through the cracks (in the dam): South Indian Lake and the Churchill River Diversion Project. In Chodkiewicz, J.-L., and Brown, J., (eds.) First Nations and Hydroelectric Development in Northern Manitoba. The Northern Flood Agreement: Issues and Implications. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, pp.67-77.