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A First Nations group is blocking access to three northern Manitoba Hydro installations after band members say sacred ceremonial land near the sites was desecrated.

Members of the Fox Lake Cree Nation set up a blockade Thursday morning at the junction of the reserve and Highway 290.

It has cut off workers' access to Hydro's Limestone generation station, Keewatinohk access gate and Henday converter station.

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Demonstrators say the move comes after they discovered ceremonial land, adorned with prayer flags and tobacco ties, was destroyed.

The blockade hasn't affected ongoing work at the three locations as the workers live in camps on the sites, but it has affected in-and-out access for Hydro's 280 workers.

Hydro is investigating the damage and says utility CEO Kelvin Shepherd was to visit the site Friday.

Band Chief Walter Spence said several trees were uprooted, flags were found on the ground and the tobacco ties were disrupted.

The flags and ties had been placed by Cree Nation members in November as part of a ground-breaking ceremony, which Hydro took part in, to honour the land before the Crown company began construction on the reserve.

Spence said for the past few decades, there has been an agreement that whenever hydro construction starts, band members would do a sacred ceremony because the landscape would change.

"We are shocked that it occurred one more time," he said. "When we reported it to our band members they were quite hurt and we decided we needed to take social action."

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"We are not sure what happened," said Hydro spokesman Scott Powell. "We had some staff in the area when the tower went up and the clearing was completed, but the tree was left alone and the last we know it was in good shape, but it's in an area that can be easily accessed."

Powell confirmed Shepherd would visit the site Friday, and he hoped it would end the blockade.

A similar incident was reported by the Cree Nation in 2007, when a burial site was disturbed by Manitoba Hydro crews working on stripping the land.

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