Angela Levasseur Biography

My dream has been to become a lawyer since I was 12 years old. However, I have devoted the last 21 years of my life to the education of high school students. The time I have spent with young people has been an amazing journey, for which I am grateful.

My first love, however, is law and governance; particularly law and governance of Indigenous peoples. My passion is protecting the land and water in Northern Manitoba from continued destruction from the impacts of Hydro Electric dams. My home community is O-Pipon-Na-Pi-win Cree Nation or South Indian Lake. South Indian Lake is the fourth largest lake in Manitoba; it was once so pure and pristine that you could safely drink water straight from the lake.

In 1976, the year I was born, Manitoba Hydro completed the construction of a dam at Missi Falls and diverted the Churchill River. My people, the Cree of South Indian Lake, were forced to relocate across the lake. Their homes, lands, waters, a lucrative commercial fishing industry, and many of their ancestral graves were destroyed by the flooding.

Manitoba Hydro raised the water levels as high as 3 metres or 10 feet, causing mass destruction to the environment and local ecosystems. The resultant soil erosion caused widespread destruction to the land; entire regions of boreal forest were fully submerged underwater.  If you visit South Indian Lake today, you will see open-mouthed caves where beautiful sand beaches once existed and treetops sticking out all over the lake.  The water is saturated with toxins, pollution, and heavy metals such as mercury. Also, South Indian Lake once has the 3rd largest whitefish population in North America, this population has since been severely decimated.  Moreover, South Indian Lake once had a very healthy sturgeon population, and now, the sturgeon are facing the threat of extinction, yet no one seems to care.

For the last 44 years, the Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba has suffered greatly due to the impacts of Manitoba Hydro’s dams. Our people have not had clean drinking water, have suffered from high rates of cancer, diabetes, shigella, shigellosis, H Pylori, and many other health issues due to the direct and indirect effects of flooding. Also, there has been a myriad of social-economic impacts, including but not limited to: abject poverty, high unemployment rates, high suicide rates, mass incarceration, domestic violence, widespread alcoholism, drug addiction, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual assaults (including sexual violence against Indigenous women by Manitoba Hydro employees), hopelessness, and despair.

By Robert Spence councillor for TATASKWEYAK 

The people of South Indian Lake, Nelson House, Split Lake, York Landing, Cross Lake, Grand Rapids, and many other Northern First Nations communities have faced incredible hardship, including but not limited to; extreme poverty, dispossession of our lands, a long history of residential school attendance, (and the subsequent loss of language and culture for many), domestic violence, community-wide violence, and widespread drug and alcohol addiction.

For our people to become economically self-sufficient and to heal from the wounds of our past, we must achieve self-government and self-determination. An integral part of these goals is to stop the environmental destruction of our lands and waters. We, as a people, cannot achieve economic self-sufficiency if our means of supporting ourselves is being destroyed in the name of progress.

Today, I have a 23-year-old son whom I raised as a single mother for 17 years. I struggled through two university degrees to ensure that my son would have a good life. I grew up in a family of 10, with six brothers and one sister; all of whom were younger than I; save for my older brother. As an Indigenous woman, I have battled sexism, racial oppression, and discrimination all my life. I have had to work twice as hard as others to get half the respect and acknowledgment; these experiences have only made me more resilient and accelerated my drive and ambition.

To this end, I have completed first and second-year law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law at St. Paul/Minneapolis in the United States. This past year I was honoured to serve as the Vice President of the Native American Law Students’ Association (NALSA) and as the student rep for the board of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association (MAIBA).  Under the Jay Treaty, I was granted American citizenship and thus am a citizen of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, Canada, and the United States of America.

Finally, today I have five children and one grandchild; all of whom are band members of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. I am also blessed to have a wonderful, loving, and supportive husband who provides balance in my life. The future of our nations and the future of our land and water means everything to me. As human beings, both Indigenous and non, we must not leave behind a legacy of destruction.  Our children and our grandchildren deserve to have a clean environment, clean drinking water, and an abundant source of fish and wildlife. 

Ekosani, (thank-you)

Angela Levasseur (nee Busch), B.A., B. Ed., PBDE, Juris Doctor Candidate 2023

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