The timeline below focuses on hydro-electric development in Manitoba.

     First hydro-electric dam in Manitoba built on the Little Saskatchewan

1906     First dam on the Winnipeg River is completed at Pinawa.2

1913     First study of the hydro-electric potential of the Churchill and Nelson
rivers is completed with involvement of the federal government.3

1930     The Natural Resources Transfer Agreement shifts control of natural
resources from the federal to the provincial government, with detrimental
implications for Aboriginal rights.4

1940’s   The societal pursuit of an electrically-furnished standard of living takes off.5

1961     The Kelsey Dam becomes the first generating station completed on the
Nelson River.6

1963      Canada and Manitoba enter an agreement to further study the feasibility
of hydro-electric development on the Nelson River.7

1963       Norway House becomes the first northern Aboriginal community to receive

1965       The Grand Rapids Dam goes into service on the Saskatchewan River
(with final completion in 1968).9

1970        An interim Water Power Act licence is granted for the Lake Winnipeg

1972        With hydro development looming in the north, Rev. John McFarlane,
a United Church minister in South Indian Lake, shares the hydro fears
of his parishioners with United Church leaders in the south. They pay
heed, and soon the Interchurch Task Force on Northern Flooding is

1972        An interim Water Power Act licence is granted for the Churchill River
 project.12 The licence was revised in 1973.

1974       The Northern Flood Committee forms to represent the interests of five
Cree communities: Cross Lake, Nelson House, Norway House, Split
Lake and York Landing.13

1975       The Interchurch Task Force on Northern Flooding holds a public inquiry,
something governments refused to do. The inquiry was headed by
retired Justice C. Rhodes Smith. The resulting report notes strong
Aboriginal opposition to hydro development.14

1976       The water on South Indian Lake rises as a result of the Churchill River
 project. Lake Winnipeg Regulation also begins operation.15

1977        In a case of flood first negotiate later, The Northern Flood Agreement 
is signed by Canada, Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro and the Northern
Flood Committee Cree nations (Cross Lake, Nelson House, Norway
House, Split Lake, York Landing). It grants Manitoba Hydro the right to
flood reserve land, and promises the Cree nations a variety of benefits
in exchange.16

1992-97   Four of the five Northern Flood Committee nations sign agreements
that supersede the Northern Flood Agreement (NFA). They receive
large lump-sum cash settlements and new reserve lands. In exchange,
Manitoba Hydro and governments are “release[d] and forever discharge[d]”
of most of their NFA obligations. Cross Lake chooses to stick with
the NFA rather than sign a subsequent agreement. For more, see
pages 28-31 of “Let Justice Flow.”17

1997        Manitoba Hydro and Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House)
begin negotiations on joint development of the Wuskwatim

2001        The report of the Interchurch Inquiry into Northern Hydro Development,
which heard from Hydro, governments, academics and many Aboriginal
people says the northern hydro system constitutes an ecological and
moral catastrophe.19

2001       Manitoba Hydro and Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation sign a non-binding
Agreement in Principle that would give the Cree an equity share in the
Wuskwatim project.20

2006       Construction beings on the Wuskwatim project.21

2006       The 99-MW St. Leon wind farm is completed.22

2009       Manitoba Hydro and four Cree nations sign a project development
 for joint development of the Keeyask Dam.23

2011       Projected in-service date for the Wuskwatim Dam.24

2012      Anticipated start of construction of the Bipole III transmission line.25

2019/20       Earliest projected in-service date for the Keeyask Dam, if it proceeds.26
NOTE: For broader historic context see our Canadian Aboriginal History Timeline.


  1. Source: Manitoba Hydro online timeline (accessed October 2010).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. The Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People says of the transfer agreements with provinces that governments failed to take “any precaution, apparently, to safeguard the sacred trusts which had been guaranteed to the Indians by treaty” (vol. 1, p. 184). The Manitoba transfer agreement can be viewed on the Government of Manitoba website.
  5. Source: Manitoba Hydro online timeline (accessed October 2010).
  6. Source: Manitoba Hydro webpage on the Kelsey Dam (accessed October 2010).
  7. Source: Manitoba Hydro online timeline (accessed October 2010).
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Source: Manitoba Water Stewardship webpage about Lake Winnipeg Regulation licensing (accessed October 2010).
  11. Source: Internal information.
  12. Source: Manitoba Water Stewardship webpage about Churchill River Diversion (accessed October 2010).
  13. Source: Internal information.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Source: Manitoba Hydro online timeline (accessed October 2010).
  16. Source: Internal information.
  17. Source: “Let Justice Flow: Report of the Interchurch Inquiry into Northern Hydro Development,” 2001, Manitoba Aboriginal Rights Coalition, pages 28-31.
  18. Source: Manitoba Hydro webpage entitled, “Partnership with Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation” (accessed October 2010).
  19. Source: “Let Justice Flow: Report of the Interchurch Inquiry into Northern Hydro Development,” 2001, Manitoba Aboriginal Rights Coalition, pages 3.
  20. Source: Manitoba Hydro webpage on reviews and licences for Wuskwatim (accessed October 2010).
  21. Source: Manitoba Hydro news release, June 26, 2006 (accessed October 2010).
  22. Source: Manitoba Government news release, March 10, 2006 (accessed October 2010).
  23. Source: Manitoba Hydro’s “First Nations Partnership” web section (accessed October 2010).
  24. Source: Manitoba Hydro’s “Wuskwatim Generation Project” web page (accessed October 2010).
  25. Source: Manitoba Hydro’s “Bipole III” web page (accessed October 2010).
  26. Sources: Manitoba Hydro’s “Keeyask Generation Project Information Panels – Round One,” undated, page 8 (accessed October 2010). “Presentation to the Public Utilities Board of Manitoba: Manitoba Hydro GRA, Hearing Start Date: January 5, 2011,” Manitoba Hydro, January, 2011, page 17.

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