AMC Responds to Announced Development of a Water Agency on Treaty 1 Lands

March 31, 2023

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) issued the following statement in response to the announcement of an upcoming national water agency to be based in Winnipeg as part of the federal budget unveiling.

AMC leadership attended a Manitoba NIPI (Water) Legislation Dialogue Session with the Assembly of First Nations on March 2, 2023, where Water Legislation and Protection were discussed. Natural water sources are rarely acknowledged or appreciated, and while this has largely gone unnoticed by Manitobans, politicians, and global leaders, it has not gone unnoticed by First Nations citizens. It continues to be a part of our daily lives and traditions.

“The development of this agency, here on Treaty One territory, must include First Nations leadership,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “This Agency cannot be created in isolation of Traditional Knowledge and the strong integration of Elders, Women as Water Keepers and youth throughout the work of this institution. Historically we have been excluded from these tables when decisions regarding water and its protection are being made. We expect this to change once this national agency is in a region with the highest population of First Nations people who rely on these waters.”

The Anishinaabe Nibi Inaakonigewin (Anishinaabe Water Law), tells us that water has a spirit, is life, can heal, and needs a voice. Since time immemorial, First Nations have protected waterways and are the best equipped to develop a Water Agency that will inform the protection of water bodies and waterways throughout Manitoba.

Furthermore, Manitoba First Nations hold local and historical knowledge that is crucial to water conservation, restoration, and protection. First Nations citizens use the land continuously throughout the year, and therefore their knowledge is sensitive to the local environment and climate. Our knowledge is enduring and constitutes primary sources of pre-industrial “baseline” information, but mainstream science has a knowledge gap which makes science incomplete and even flawed if it’s not informed, driven, and carried out by local First Nations citizens.

First Nations have been impacted by industry, namely Manitoba Hydro, without consultation and engagement, leading to the destruction of lands, animals, and water systems. Recently, First Nations in Manitoba have asserted their rights on consultation and meaningful engagement with Manitoba Hydro and the Province of Manitoba on new hydro development and now have shared First Nations traditional knowledge of the land, animal migrations and water systems because of First Nations’ responsibility of stewards.

To develop effective resource management and migration measures, First Nations people’s Traditional Knowledge is vital. There are many limitations to conventional science, including limited time and geographic scope, short field seasons, uncertain long-term funding and changing political agendas. Therefore, the status-quo model of environmental management where Manitoba First Nations are not equal participants and decision-makers remains unacceptable.

“It is crucial that Manitoba First Nations have a structure or agency that facilitates collaboration, knowledge-sharing, science evaluation, and mitigation and protection measures. Essentially it is a structure that allows First Nations to work in partnership with each other and with municipalities, provincial and federal governments,” said Grand Chief Merrick. “We look forward to contributing traditional knowledge to the creation and mandate of Canada’s first Water Agency, ensuring its efficiency and cultural relevance.”

For more information, please contact:
Communications Team
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) peoples.