Twenty-five years ago, five First Nations brought power to their remote, underserved communities, defying skepticism, scorn and swampy terrain
For the Indigenous communities along northern Ontario’s James Bay — the ones that have lived on and taken care of the lands as long as anyone can remember — the new millenium marked the start of a diesel-less future.
While the southern part of the province took Ontario’s power grid for granted, the vast majority of these communities had never been plugged in. Their only source of power was a handful of very loud diesel-powered generators. Because of that, daily life in the Attawapiskat, Kashechewan and Fort Albany First Nations involved deliberating a series of tradeoffs.
Could you listen to the radio while toasting a piece of bread? How many Christmas lights could you connect before nothing else was usable? Was there enough power to open a new school?
The communities wanted a safe, reliable, clean alternative. So did their chiefs, which is why they passed a resolution in 1996 to connect the area to Ontario’s grid, not just for basic necessities but to facilitate growth and development, and improve their communities’ quality of life.
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