Over the past four decades, Lake Winnipeg has been in decline as a result of nutrient loading, climate change, resource extraction, hydropower development, agriculture, and more recently, aquatic invasive species.
First Nations who live near the shores of Lake Winnipeg have seen significant impacts on their culture, social, spiritual, and economic well-being as a direct result of these environmental challenges.
In 2014, 14 Indigenous nations from around Lake Winnipeg came together to explore how to work together to protect and restore the lake for future generations. The Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective (LWIC) was formed.
Who We Are
LWIC represents the Indigenous voice for Lake Winnipeg. With administrative support from the Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF) and through a collective governance model, LWIC embraces its responsibility to restore the health of the sacred lake for future generations.
Our VISION is that our sacred waters are healthy, traditional livelihoods are restored, and Indigenous perspectives are influential in leading the protection and sustainability of Lake Winnipeg as a source of life for all future generations
Our MISSION is to seek healthy and equitable solutions for our waters and our people from the diverse nations who have a relationship with Manitoba’s sacred great lake.
LWIC is led by the steering committee that functions as a governing body, with the leadership, guidance, and advice of the Northern and Southern Basin Representatives.
In September, five LWIC nations gathered in Misipawistik, where many elders and community members joined the conversations and discussions about how to address the impacts of hydro-electricity production on Lake Winnipeg. LWIC representatives heard from the elders, established communication plans, and generated ideas for future projects and initiatives. The LWIC Accord was finalized at this gathering. The accord outlines the relationship between Indigenous people and Lake Winnipeg, and describes the collective’s commitment to solutions. LWIC representatives also spent time on the water, touring impacted areas in Misipawistik traditional territory, and hearing stories of flooded and abandoned fishing camps.
Also in September, LWF and LWIC were invited by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation to attend the commission’s annual gathering in Mexico. While there, LWF’s Programs Director had the opportunity to present to the environment ministers of Canada, Mexico and the United States, sharing the some of the cross-cultural learnings with respect to Lake Winnipeg management and conservation that are emerging through LWF and LWIC’s collaboration.
LWIC’s steering committee consists of representatives from six First Nations. In November, the committee met to discuss funding options and establish project plans for the upcoming year. Committee members then went on a tour of the Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve to gain a deeper understanding of the environmental value of wetlands and the traditional medicines they provide. They also learned about the federal government’s environmental regulatory review process and were provided with an overview of key environmental legislation. Subsequently LWIC submitted two parliamentary briefs for the reviews of the Fisheries Act and the Navigation Protection Act.
LWIC Video Project
LWIC has created three videos highlighting the environmental challenges faced by the First Nations on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. These videos are being shared through the LWIC networks and online to raise awareness about LWIC and its work. These videos can be viewed on the Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective Facebook page,Youtube Channel, and website.
LWIC’s future projects for 2017 include a fish habitat project, where local and traditional knowledge will be gathered to document how traditional spawning areas have been impacted, and a youth gathering to engage the next generation of Indigenous water champions.