Construction of Whitesand Rapids Storage Dam


In 1942-1943 the Churchill River Power Company constructed a storage dam at Whitesand Rapids on Reindeer Lake to stabilize the water supply for the Island Falls dam. The Peter Ballantyne Band is upstream from the Whitesands Dam at Southend Reindeer Lake. Six hundred acres of shoreline part of their reserve lands was flooded by the operation of the dam.



The construction of this dam raised water levels in Reindeer Lake nearly five feet, and the outlfow south of the dam changed so drastically that the habitat became unliveable for muskrat, beaver and mink.  It also led to the destruction of spawning grounds and reduced fish harvests.  Local Indigenous residents were never compensated for their significant fishing and trapping losses, nor were they provided with alternative means to support their livelihoods. In addition, flooding represented more than a material loss; environmental destruction and the disappearance of key species in an ecosystem contribute to emotional, cultural, physical, and intergenerational impacts of colonialism within an Indigenous community. According to oral histories conducted by the Churchill Committee in March 1978, Pelican Narrows resident Alex Bear stated that very little consultation was undertaken with Indigenous residents when the Whitesand dam was built. He explains that the deeper water levels the dam created rendered net fishing impossible. Ernest McLeod, a resident of Stanley Mission explains how the high water levels flooded the muskrat nests, killing the animals in the process (Churchill Committee Brief to the Churchill River Board of Inquiry, 1978). 




File Description
Richard H. Bartlett. Hydroelectric Power and Indian Water Rights on the Prairies