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New plaques celebrate R.H. Saunders GS and Akwesasne heritage

Three new plaques that celebrate the Mohawks of Akwesasne and the construction of the Moses-Saunders Power Dam were recently unveiled along the St. Lawrence River in Cornwall.

New plaques were unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Cornwall during National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations.
New plaques were unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Cornwall during National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations.

The new displays, among 42 illustrated plaques spread along Cornwall’s Historic Walking Tour, were introduced during National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations on June 25 at OPG’s St. Lawrence Power Development Visitor Centre. OPG, working with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, organized the day’s events, which featured a performance by Lone Wolf and the Spaghetti Corner Band, a three-piece Akwesasne musical group, as well as artisans and vendors from the Mohawk community.

Artists from Cornwall’s Heart of the City group produced two signs detailing the construction of the sprawling Moses-Saunders Power Dam in the 1950s and current operation of OPG’s 1,045-megawatt R.H. Saunders Generating Station (GS) on the Canadian side of the dam.

The third new plaque features a painting titled Kaniatares, or long river, by late Mohawk artist John B. Thomas, whose original mural is proudly displayed at OPG’s visitor centre. This plaque, which presents information in English, French and Mohawk, focuses on the rich Akwesasne culture and history around the river and the impact the Power Project and Seaway construction had on the Mohawk community.

A new plaque along Cornwall's waterfront trail details the history and heritage of the Mohawks of Akwesasne.
A new plaque along Cornwall's waterfront trail details the history and heritage of the Mohawks of Akwesasne.

The new displays can be found along the Waterfront Trail on the south side of OPG’s visitor centre.

“The story was not always a positive one, but with strong leadership in the community and OPG, we celebrate that we are committed to moving forward to build strong partnerships,” said Akwesasne Grand Chief Abram Benedict, who was on hand to help unveil the new plaques.

Brent Stajkowski, Production Manager at R.H. Saunders GS, and City of Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement also provided remarks during the celebration.

“This was a great opportunity to celebrate the great relationship we have with the Akwesasne and to promote all the great things in Cornwall and the surrounding area,” Stajkowski said.

Photo of Akwesasne Grand Chief Abram Benedict
Akwesasne Grand Chief Abram Benedict speaks during National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in Cornwall.

The construction of the Moses-Saunders dam as well as the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 1950s required more than 6,500 people to be relocated to higher ground. For the Mohawk people, this resulted in flooding of their traditional territory and loss of resources and quality of life.

As part of a final settlement agreement reached in 2008 between OPG and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, OPG issued a formal apology and both groups agreed to a new partnership that has resulted in several environmental initiatives as well as employment and capacity building programs.