Nelson House

Carol Kobliski’s Memories of Nelson House

Growing up on an island, living off of the plants and animals that surrounded oneself, instills a deep and spiritual connection and respect for the land as a giver of life. Carol Kobliski carries this connection with her, that she developed as a young girl living in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. Carol spent a lot of time learning from her grandparents. Her grandfather was a senator, acting as a middle man between the government and the community. From a very young age she learnt a great deal about development and the undertaking of projects from overhearing grandfather’s conversations. At the time she may not have understood it all, but as she grew older she began to learn why her grandfather’s job was important.

Today Nelson House presently owns 33% of the Wuskwatim dam, a hydroelectric dam built by Manitoba Hydro. The land Carol has learned from has grown unfamiliar, with cysts in the moose and beaver, and the water being unsafe to drink or swim in. Not only has the land been altered, so has her community. When hydro began construction, people were healthy. Now a rise in drug and alcohol misuse has altered the relationships between people in her community, and between people and the land.

With the community having to take loans (with interest rates as high as a whopping 36%) against their shares in hydro, leaders in Nelson House finally admitted that building Wuskwatim was not a good deal for the community. The impacts to the land and people of Nelson House could fill a long list of broken promises by Manitoba Hydro. “Everything is rushed all the time, but that isn’t proper consultation. We need to consider everyone and everything that is affected by these projects,” Carol says. If willing, the relationship their community has with Manitoba Hydro could be repaired, however everything they are going through remains hidden by corporate smokescreens, in an effort to pretend that the operations of Manitoba Hydro have been successful on all fronts.

“We are all connected and affected by these projects, we have to take care of what surrounds us,” Carol reminds us. It is time Manitoba Hydro cleans up their mess properly, they can no longer flood their mess over with the water. Water moves, and things resurface, everything will wash up on the shore soon.

Stats & Facts

  • The Wuskwatim generating station project is noteworthy in the history of hydroelectricity in Manitoba, as it was the first project where Manitoba Hydro entered into a formal partnership with a First Nations community
  • Participating in the regulatory process was a challenge for residents of Nelson House, as challenges with accessibility, transportation, and legal language we’re not addressed to fairly accomodate the community in participating in the process.
  • Wuskwatim was completed in 2012, taking 6 years to build and has a generating capacity 211 megawatts
  • The generating station’s power is supplied from the Burntwood River, and is currently connected to 3 transmission lines servicing Manitobans.
  • The project agreement has had adverse socio-economic effects for the community, placing them in major debt alongside Manitoba Hydro’s poor financial planning
  • The Churchill River Diversion (CRD) had drastic effects on Nelson House, and the partnership agreement with Wuskwatim seemed to some like a promising repair to the relationship at the time, but was later realized to have devastating impacts on the community’s environment, as well as social and economic systems

Learn More

Kulchyski, Peter Keith. È-nakàskàkowaàhk (A Step Back): Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and the Wuskwatim Project. Canadian Centre Policy Alternatives, 2004.

Sajid, Shafak. “A Matter of Trust – Wuskwatim Hydroelectric Facility: Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Case Study.” Canada West Foundation, Canada West Foundation, 24 Nov. 2016, 

Wuskwatim Project

Northern Flood Agreement. (1977).

Know History Inc. (2016). Hydroelectric Development in Northern Manitoba. A History of the Development of the Churchill, Burntwood and Nelson Rivers, 1960 – 2015. Presented to the Clean Environment Commission.