Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation
The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (formerly the Nelson House First Nation) is a Cree-speaking community of about 4,200 Cree centered in Nelson House, Manitoba, Canada. Nelson House is located about 80 km west of Thompson and is accessible via the mixed paved and gravel Provincial Road 391. Nisichawayasihk means where three rivers meet in Cree and describes Nelson House which is located at the convergence of the Burntwood River, Footprint and Rat Rivers. About 2,500 members of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) live in Nelson House and the remaining 1,700 off the reserve lands.
NCN is governed by an elected Chief and Council. Elections are held pursuant to NCN's own democratic Election Code. The last election was held in 2010.
Until 2005, the community of South Indian Lake on the shores of Southern Indian Lake was also part of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. In December 2005, this community of about 1,100 persons separated from the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation to form the O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation.
The last Elections in Nelson House was in July 2010.
The people of Nisichawayasihk are largely ancestral descendants of indigenous Cree peoples who have populated the Canadian Shield region of northern and central Canada since the retreat of the Glaciers about 10,000 years ago.
Largely left alone by the Government of Canada during initial colonization and settlement of Western Canada, by the late 19th century a move was made by the government to isolate and relocate members of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation to a single, pre-defined location which no European Settlers had expressed an interest in. This area was defined by the government in the agreement known as Treaty 5, a document which established that Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation members and their descendants were guaranteed certain rights and benefits.
Hydroelectric Development and Impacts
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Government of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro began the Nelson River Hydroelectric Project centered on the Churchill and Nelson rivers. The project included the Churchill River Diversion, which directly affected Nisichawayasihk members living at Nelson House and at South Indian Lake. Consequently, large areas of traditional hunting, fishing and trapping lands were flooded. The people of South Indian Lake were forcibly relocated to their current location.
The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) is a signatory to the Northern Flood Agreement(NFA) between Canada (the federal government), Manitoba Hydro, the Province of Manitoba and several First Nations Communities. In 1996, NCN signed an NFA Implementation Agreement. Using settlement proceeds paid pursuant to this implementation agreement, NCN purchased the Mystery Lake Motor Hotel in the nearby city of Thompson, Manitoba. In 2006, the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation signed a Project Development Agreement with Manitoba Hydro regarding the Wuskwatim hydroelectric project on the Burntwood River, about 30 km from Nelson House. When it is completed in about 2012, Wuskwatim will generate about 200 MW of electricity. The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation is involved in the construction of the project and, if it chooses to be a partner in the project, will receive a share of the future revenues. This arrangement is the first of its kind in Manitoba.
In 2006, the Atoskiwin Training and Employment Centre (ATEC) opened its doors in Nelson House. ATEC is also a Manitoba first. It will train NCN members and other aboriginals for northern hydro projects and other job opportunities.
With a population of approximately 4,200, the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation is a large and widespread community. Many of its residents are still living in third-world conditions. The local infrastructure does not support full water and sewage services to all residents. Nelson House consists of 8 areas, which are known to the residents as Hillside, Dogpoint, R.C. Point, Little R.C. Point, New Area, Hart's Point, Michelle Point, Bay Road A.K.A. Bronx.
In early February, 2004, the nearby City of Thompson, Manitoba announced its approval to the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation to convert a parcel of NCN-owned property within Thompson to Treaty Land. This was possible due to shortages in land area controlled by Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation under the Treaty Land Entitlement agreement in the mid-1990s. This event will mark one of the few transitions from privately owned land, purchased by a First Nations community, to being declared an Urban Reserve.
This plan has been quietly discussed between city and band administration since the narrowly lost plebiscite held in Thompson on September 18, 2001. With a 45% voter turnout for the plebiscite, and amid allegations of inappropriate voter disqualifications, the "no" side won by a margin of 250 votes. During the three years following the plebiscite, the majority of Thompson City Councillors have publicly stated that the results of the vote were not binding upon city council, as the council has been elected to act in the best interests of the citizens of Thompson.
- Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation
- Manitoba Hydro hosted Wuskwatim Agreement (PDF)
- Map of Nelson House 170 at Statcan