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FSI Study Challenges Official Report: Dam Will Demolish Churchill Economy

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MARCH 1977      v07 n03 p07  
The proposed Churchill River hydro-electric power development will offer no benefits to treaty Indians living in the area, according to the recently published report of the FSI's socio-economic impact study of the project.

The proposed dam Wintego Rapids "will only contribute to the destruction" of the Crees way of life, the report concludes.

The Land Alone The 475-page report is the product 16 weeks of field research among the people of the Peter Ballantyne and Lac La Ronge bands conducted between January and May 1976. The work was undertaken on behalf of the bands by the FSI with the assistance of a $50,000 grant from the department of Indian affairs.

The study says none of the criteria for, economic development is met by the proposed project.

The low-skill jobs offered during the construction phase will not improve local skill levels.

The installation will require no significant workforce after construction and will have no economic spin-off effects, the report says.

"In its expected lifetime, the dam will produce power valued at up to $1.5 billion, almost all of which will accrue outside the Churchill River basin. The dam does not generate investment capital for the area, nor does it improve the areas investment potential."

Finally, degradation of the environment will reduce productivity of hunting, fishing and trapping and further the impoverishment of the Cree, it says.

"The hydro-electric installation proposed by the Saskatchewan Power Corporation represents a severe blow to the basin Cree. On the one hand it will damage the environment and the productivity of domestic production, and it will drain massive wealth out of the basin with no benefit for the people."

The report argues that local production of food, shelter and clothing for domestic use is still the chief mainstay of the basin Cree economy.

Domestic production represented fully 58 per cent of the total value" of production in the area. The report estimates the average household annually produced food for domestic use worth $10,377, forming the major component of total domestic production of $13,556.

Welfare payments, family allowance and other transfer payments represented only 14 per cent, or $3,303, of total income, while wages represented 27 per cent, or $6,366 per household.

These figures contrast sharply with those of the official Churchill River Study which estimated the value of domestic food production as only eight per cent of total income. The FSI study calls this figure "a gross underestimate."

The Churchill River Study is taken to task in several places in the FSI study report.

Besides underestimating the value of domestic production, he Churchill River Study cost-benefit analysis also refuses to recognize the prospects for higher returns to trappers and fishermen for their produce.

"It describes environmental effects in terms of levels of returns to, fishermen and trappers when it is clear that these earnings do not begin to approach the real value of fish and fur resources," the FSI study states.

"At the very least, these effects should have been valued in terms of the ultimate consumer prices paid for fish and fur, which is many times greater than the prices paid to the producers."

The impetus for the" development of the FSI study was generated from the dissatisfaction of the Churchill bands with the conduct of the Churchill River Study. Field workers from the provincially and federally-funded project were refuse entry to the bands reserves.

The bands questioned the official study methods and its terms of reference and objected that it refused to study the crucial issue of treaty

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FSI Study Challenges Official Report: Dam Will Demolish Churchill Economy

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MARCH 1977      v07 n03 p08  
rights. They also charged the study refused to involve local people.

From a series of interviews with band elders, the FSI report concludes taj the separate understandings of the meaning of Treaty Six held by treaty Indians and whites differ substantially. The bands were adhered to Treaty Six in 1889.

"Cree knowledge has it that all they ceded by treaty was the dry surface of the land and nothing else. The Indian way of making a living and the resources upon which their lifestyle was based were to remain theirs for all time."

The reports title, "aski-puko" (the land reflects the notion that only the dry land surface was ceded by treaty.

"The oral history of the present generation of Churchill River basin Cree makes it clear that the treaty's signatories were explicitly attempting to protect their economy by assuring unbroken and unimpeded. access to the very resources from which they drew the entire economic substance of their lifestyle. From their point of view, it would have been irresponsible to insist upon anything less than complete control of resources."