Our History


In 1919, the aqueduct to carry clean lake water directly into Winnipeg was finished. It is built over an old native burial ground. Between 1912-1919, the original Ojibwa village, located at the mouth of the Falcon River at Shoal Lake, was displaced and moved to a man-made island. A parcel of the band’s traditional land, 3,000 acres, became City of Winnipeg property and split the reserve into three separate parcels.

Ottawa selected a peninsula across the lake from the old village as the site of the Shoal Lake 40 reserve.

Government officials ordered the diversion canal to be dug across nearby narrows, effectively creating an island and isolating the reserve.

In the year 1997, multiple boil water advisories were put into effect that would last at least a quarter century. After years of negotiations to build a bridge or a road that would reconnect our Nation to the mainland, the Federal Government quashed proposals in 2009. 

Shoal Lake 40 members took it upon themselves to tell the world of the injustice to which it had been subjected. In 2007, the community walked to Winnipeg to bring attention to its plight. Again, prior to the completion of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR), we walked again to the City to draw attention to Canada’s hypocracy. We gained allies across the globe to help us in our cause. In 2014, the International Joint Commission wrote a letter to Ottawa citing numerous complaints about uncompensated harm done to our Nation and territory.

By 2017, Shoal Lake 40 had secured a funded commitment to build our Freedom Road. It was completed in June of 2019 under budget and ahead of schedule. This road has brought many things to the community, but among the most important was putting clean drinking water within reach. In 2019, construction began on a state-of-the-art water treatment plant. It is scheduled to be completed in 2021.


Time Immemorial

The story of the Anishinaabeg of present-day Shoal Lake begins at Time Immemorial

The oldest archaeological evidence of Anishinaabe ancestors on Shoal Lake and in the Lake of the Woods Region

10,500 BCE

4000 BCE

Anishinaabeg of Shoal Lake participate in a vast commerce and trade network that stretched throughout Mikinaak Minis (Turtle Island). Commodities includeded metals like copper, and perishable goods like manoomin (wild rice), mandaamin (corn), asemaa (tobacco), giigoonyag (fish), mashkikiwan (medicines), pelts, and many others.

Anishinaabeg of Shoal Lake and Lake of the Woods conduct trading and diplomatic expeditions to the east, where Europeans had begun to settle on Mikinaak Minis. The first European expeditions to the territory of the Anishinaabeg of Shoal Lake occur in 1688.



Treaty #3 is signed on October 3rd, 1873. 



The Indian Act is proclaimed.

Shoal Lake 40, Shoal Lake 39, and Shoal Lake 34B2 reserves are surveyed.



Then – Winnipeg mayor Thomas R. Deacon wins a landslide vicotry, promising a safe supply of fresh water. Construction of the aqueduct begins.

The City of Winnipeg displaces Shoal Lake 40 First Nation from its historic village site. The band is moved onto a roughly 25-square-kilometre peninsula jutting into Shoal Lake.



A 135-kilometre aqueduct is completed at a cost of $17 million. Its construction results in Shoal Lake 40 being cut off from the mainland.

The City of Winnipeg, the Province of Manitoba and Shoal Lake 40 sign an agreement. Shoal Lake 40 must protect the water quality of the lake. In turn, the city and province must support the First Nation’s economic development. 



Boil water advisory is instated.

The federal government proposes a bridge from Shoal Lake 40 through the neighbouring First Nation (Shoal Lake 39). Not wanting a public right-of-way through its lands, Shoal Lake 39 votes against it, killing the proposal. 



Shoal Lake 40 turns its attention to the building of a road that would bypass Shoal Lake 39. Over the next few years, negotiations take place with the federal government for a deal on a proposed $30-million road. The government rejects the proposal in 2009.

Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg each commit $1 million to the design and construction of Freedom Road. The federal government makes a similar commitment a year later, but does not commit to construction.



The International Joint Commission writes a letter to Ottawa. It says the commission has received numerous complaints about uncompensated harm done to the First Nation’s members and lands due to the water diversion from Shoal Lake by the City of Winnipeg.

Canada’s Indigenous Affairs minister, Manitoba’s premier, Winnipeg’s mayor and the Chief of Shoal Lake 40 announce funding for a $30-million access road, dubbed Freedom Road. 



Official construction of the road begins.

Freedom Road is completed in June of 2019. Construction begins on a state-of-the-art water treatment plant, a new school, and multiple infrastructure projects.



WHO: The city, province and Shoal Lake 40, and also Ottawa through a parallel but separate agreement with Shoal Lake 40.

WHAT: Not a compensation package, but a three-party “environmental management agreement,” with Shoal Lake 40 responsible for protecting water quality as long as the city and province would support Shoal Lake 40 in creating economic development opportunities.

The tripartite agreement took effect once a parallel agreement was signed between the federal government and Shoal Lake 40 in 1990. Under that parallel agreement, Ottawa threw in $2.5 million to build a sewage system, but water is still untreated. A statement in the tripartite agreement signed by Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg: “We shall make every effort to promote economic development beneficial to the band in the Shoal Lake area.”