Stella Neff returned to live on the small plot of land she grew up on. “Our community lost its cohesiveness. We have problems with alcohol, drug addiction, family breakdowns ...violence. Our children suffer the most. The previous generation knew life before the hydro dam. They are better off because they know we are good people. But this generation only knows what life is like now…since the dam.”

Young Stella knew little of the outside world. “Everyone was healthy. Our culture had been surviving off the land for 1000’s of years. We were happy and proud of our culture. When Hydro arrived, we became a minority overnight. Cree became a shameful thing. Our speech, language, culture — even our clothes were made fun of by the other kids.

Stella, 18, left to become a nurse. She went on to obtain degrees in Anthropology and Educational Administration. Stella taught for 20 years then came home. What she found was staggering. “We were promised running water, free electricity… not one tree would be destroyed! We’d have better hunting and fishing, our marshes would teem with ducks and geese.”

Hydro is beginning to make amends. Seasonal crews remove the extraordinary amount of driftwood choking shore life. They are cleaning up the grotesque gravel pits that sat like open sores for five decades. Stella truly feels for her community. When asked if retirement is in her future: “I can’t stop. There is so much injustice.”

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Stella Neff
Misipawistik Cree Nation (Grand Rapids)
Image size: 11 x 13 inches
Edition Size: 275