“The relatively cheap electrical energy that first supported the Thompson nickel mine — and now feeds an ever-growing, modern provincial economy — is frequently touted as a “green” alternative to fossil fuels, but even prior to Keeyask, earlier dams had changed the river’s flow patterns, affecting beaver and muskrat habitat, disrupting caribou migratory routes and flooding sets of rapids where sturgeon spawned, depriving northern residents of centuries-old fur and food sources.”
When Big Money gets involved, and governments are convinced that a mine and a hydro-electric dam are more important than indigenous people and native species, the outcome is always bd.
When I lived in New Brunswick, Canada, I served as a hospital chaplain. I spent time with an elderly native woman in the cardiac care unit. We talked about our river, the St. John, known to the indigenous people as Wolastoq, and how my family had settled on its shores 300 years ago, and hers had been there since time immemorial.
When the hydro electric dams were built on Wolastoq, my patient’s village was flooded. It was reserved land, but the government relocated people to other housing. Thousands of years of being were lost. The community was broken.
There was a time when the salmon swam up Wolastoq, the mighty Plamu’k, and their life in the waters propagated the great pines, and the mycological creature that transported nutrients to the trees. Then the plamu’k succumbed to the devastation on the river, and climate change, with the waters warming, the snow and ice losing their place in the year, and the great pines were cut down or died. That mysterious and complex fungus being was lost.
I sat on the banks of Wolastoq with my companion as he told this lost history. It was a beautiful summer day, and we were under the pines overlooking the waters. We both remembered the salmon fishing, he going to the river with his father, and I, visiting the family sites with my parents and sisters, watching the fly casting fisherman work the waters.
That is gone.