Indigenous relations

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Manitoba Hydro has a presence right across Manitoba – on Treaty 1, Treaty 2, Treaty 3, Treaty 4 and Treaty 5 lands – the original territories of the Anishinaabe, Anishininew, Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples and the homeland of the Red River Métis. We acknowledge these lands and pay our respects to the ancestors of these territories. The legacy of the past remains a strong influence on Manitoba Hydro’s relationships with Indigenous communities today, and we are committed to respecting and supporting Indigenous peoples in all aspects of our business.

We are committed to addressing the impacts of our projects and have entered into a range of agreements with Indigenous communities and organizations.

Our workplace should be representative of the communities where we live and work. Indigenous people are a growing component of Manitoba’s population and our customer base.

Significant contributions have been made towards a renewed relationship built on mutual respect, a committed understanding and more meaningful communication. We recognize that viable relationships and partnerships are fostered in an environment of mutual respect. We strive to understand and respect the social and economic views, values, traditions and aspirations of Indigenous peoples when deciding upon or taking action.

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Our commitment

Manitoba Hydro operates throughout Manitoba, on the original territories of the Anishinaabe, Anishininew, Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Red River Métis. We are committed to respecting and supporting Indigenous peoples in all aspects of our business.

Indigenous peoples have a strong cultural and spiritual connection to the lands and waters, dating back to time immemorial. We acknowledge the impacts of our projects and operations, and we are committed to working collaboratively to strengthen and improve our relationships with Indigenous communities. We support the advancement of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Manitoba, and we will work to contribute to reconciliation efforts in our interactions with Indigenous peoples and communities.

A red, five-petaled, beaded flower with a white and blue center, flanked by two leaves.

We commit that:

  • We will provide education to our employees regarding Indigenous peoples, cultures, and history, including the history of hydroelectric development in Manitoba and the effect of this development on Indigenous peoples and communities.
  • We will work with Indigenous communities to understand their evolving energy needs and seek to provide customer service that reflects this understanding.
  • We will provide timely and meaningful engagement and communication with affected Indigenous communities during project development and ongoing operations.
  • We will work collaboratively with Indigenous communities to address the adverse impacts of our projects and operations.
  • We will collaborate with Indigenous communities in order to understand and be guided by their Indigenous Knowledge as it relates to our projects.
  • We will promote safety on project-affected waterways, through water level notifications, community safety programming, and other measures.
  • We will encourage the participation of Indigenous businesses and people in our procurement.
  • We will promote and support the equitable representation of Indigenous people in our workforce.

About the beadwork

The Commitment Statement is a meaningful and significant document for Manitoba Hydro, and careful consideration was given to the accompanying artwork.

As a major employer of Indigenous people in our province, Manitoba Hydro is very grateful for the Indigenous employees who lend their time and talents in helping us grow our understanding of Indigenous cultures and histories. The original beadwork design used in the Commitment Statement was developed by Wendy Bonnie, a Red River Métis artist and Manitoba Hydro employee, in a collaborative process with other employees in our organization. The photo in the background was taken near Missi Falls, along the Churchill River system, by staff in our Waterways Programming Department.

Description from the artist:

The digitized beadwork image has several layers of symbolism; at its essence is convergence in harmony. A traditional worldview teaches that all is interconnected, and nature is our guide as to how diversity can live in harmony. The artwork includes images of land, water, and sky; traditional beadwork patterns alongside a contemporary motif (bullrushes); and symbols of our past, present, and future. The overall image is represented within a circle, reflective of traditional worldviews.

The flower and bud images are traditional patterns that are found in historical beadwork. The flowers are symbolic of the Indigenous Nations acknowledged in the Commitment Statement: while the circular design is symmetrical, flowers of the same shape are unique in their colour design to recognize the diversity of the Nations. The small bud at the top center is symbolic of the future: it is small and new and requires tending to thrive.

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Indigenous agreements

We recognize that resolving past grievances is fundamental to strengthening working relationships with Indigenous communities. A key strategy is to “resolve and manage ongoing obligations from past development”. We will continue to address the adverse effects of our existing operations on the customs, practices and traditions of Indigenous people that are integral to their cultural identity.

In addition to community-wide settlement agreements, we have reached a number of agreements with resource user groups, such as local commercial fishing and trapping associations.

Northern Flood Agreement

Planning for the Lake Winnipeg Regulation and Churchill River Diversion projects proceeded in early 1970s. Discussions also began with potentially affected northern communities.

By 1971, formal discussions were underway with Cross Lake First Nation. In 1974, as development plans matured and construction began, 5 affected First Nations formed the Northern Flood Committee to facilitate joint consultations with Manitoba Hydro and the Governments about the project.

The Northern Flood Committee, funded by the Federal Government, negotiated the Northern Flood Agreement (NFA) over the following 3 years. The NFA was signed in 1977. The 5 NFA First Nations were Split Lake, Nelson House, York Factory, Norway House and Cross Lake.

Implementation agreements

Comprehensive implementation agreements have been reached with 4 of the 5 NFA First Nations.

Settlement agreements

Wuskwatim project development agreement

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Policies & principles

Strengthening working relationships with Indigenous peoples is outlined in the key components of our Corporate Strategic Framework and related policies, programs and initiatives that guide Manitoba Hydro. Enhancing Indigenous relationships is integrated into the corporation’s top strategic goals.

Other relevant goals are:

  • have highly skilled, effective, innovative employees and a diverse workforce that reflects the demographics of Manitoba;
  • be an outstanding corporate citizen;
  • be proactive in protecting the environment and the leading utility in promoting sustainable energy supply and service.

Strategically, we aim to:

  • resolve and manage ongoing obligations from past development;
  • increase employment opportunities at Manitoba Hydro for Indigenous people;
  • continue to enhance training and support programs for Indigenous employees;
  • promote and pursue business relationships with Indigenous companies.

View our sustainable development policy.

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Relationships & partnerships

When we make our business decisions we seriously consider potential infringement on the ability, rights, and interests of Indigenous peoples to pursue their aspirations.

We engage with Indigenous leaders, local resource users, and regional organizations on a regular basis on issues of mutual interest and concern.

Cultural awareness

Increasing employee knowledge and understanding of Indigenous culture is fundamental to enhancing relationships with Indigenous peoples and their successful participation in our economic development activities.

We offer opportunities for Indigenous cultural awareness training that enable people to rethink their assumptions and personal biases about Indigenous peoples and promote understanding and respect of Indigenous cultures and different world views.


In the past 10 years we have purchased goods and services from Indigenous businesses valued at $300 million. Our Northern Purchasing Policy and Procedures promote the participation of northern Indigenous businesses in our economic activities. The policy enables practical measures to be undertaken such as:

  • information exchange;
  • matching work packages to community business capacity;
  • direct negotiation or restricted tendering subject to standards of quality;
  • cost and schedule being met;
  • Joint Ventures with non-Indigenous owned businesses as long as the Indigenous partner plays a meaningful role;
  • Indigenous content provisions in the open competitive tendering process.

Our vendor registration system is designed to connect our buyers with vendors efficiently. The system allows for separate identification of Indigenous businesses to help us increase our business interaction with Indigenous companies.

Periodically opportunities arise from work packages associated with corporate works and operations. Examples include plant, dam, dike, and pole maintenance or special projects. Major Project work packages arise also and have been allocated through direct negotiation or restricted tender processes with northern Indigenous businesses. Potential contract opportunities include:

  • maintenance, catering, security services;
  • temporary/main camp infrastructure;
  • painting and clearing principal structures.

Future generation, transmission development

Our future development strategy includes maintaining an ability to construct hydropower options at the earliest practical opportunity. Indigenous participation in future development includes:

  • broad engagement;
  • traditional knowledge included in environmental assessments;
  • pre-project training & employment preference;
  • contracts with northern Indigenous businesses;
  • negotiation of adverse effects arrangements before construction.

We want to maximize Indigenous advocacy for commercially viable and environmentally acceptable projects. We are striving to align the interests of Indigenous communities with ours by providing practical social and economic opportunities for community residents.

Indigenous peoples are assessing if the projects will enable future generations to be better off with the projects than without them and if they will contribute to the strengthening of their cultural identity and well being.

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