Grades 10-12 Lesson 3: The Tale of Grassy Narrows

The Tale of Grassy Narrows

Grassy Narrows First Nation

“It’s been a devastation of a whole way of life, a whole… culture that we need to rebuild.” – Judy Da Silva, Environmental Health Coordinator for Grassy Narrows

Background information

Grassy Narrows is a remote Northwestern Ontario reserve with approximately 1000 residents. Its water supply has been contaminated by mercury for over 50 years. Due to inadequate treatment of surface water and uranium-contaminated well water, there are currently four boil water advisories at Grassy Narrows. The contamination has already had a long-term public health impact on-reserve.

Lesson 3: The Tale of Grassy Narrows

Grade: 10-12 (Science, Health, Social Studies)

Topic: The plight of Grassy Narrows and how their water being contaminated with uranium has already had a long-term public health impact on-reserve.

Time: 1 Hour

Space requirement: Classroom

Materials: Smartboard or computer and projector, copies of the worksheet.

Objectives: Students will learn about what caused the mercury contamination of Grassy Narrows’ water, the health effects that this contaminated water is having, and some possible solutions to the problem.

Keywords: First Nation, Grassy Narrows, Mercury, Uranium, Anishnabek, Bimose Tribal Council, Wabigoon-English River System, Grassy Narrows Lake, Mercury Poisoning, Neurological Damage, World Health Organization, Physical Health, Mental Health, Mercury Exposure, Contaminated Fish, Neuropsychological Disorder, Intestinal Problems, Psychological Distress, Risk Factors, Determinant, Chronic Health Conditions, Disinfectant By-products, Surface Water, Hormonal Patterns, Liver Functioning, Kidney Functioning, Neurological Activity, Do Not Consume Advisories, Protozoa, Turbidity, Point-of-entry Anion Exchange Devices, Interdepartmental Collaboration, Cross-jurisdictional Collaboration, Infrastructure Canada’s Small Communities Fund, Feasibility Study, Decontamination, Cistern


1. Present the “The Tale of Grassy Narrows” PowerPoint presentation to the students. This will include the viewing of a seven-minute video. (Note: If you do not wish to mention suicide at all, then skip over slide 7 or delete part of it before delivering the PowerPoint presentation.)

2. Ask students what they think about the situation, have a class discussion. Some possible questions to discuss are “Why do you think that it is taking so long to provide safe drinking water to the residents of Grassy Narrows?” “What do you think the solution is?” “How would you feel if you were a parent living in Grassy Narrows?”

3. Distribute the “The Tale of Grassy Narrows” worksheets to the students. (Note: If you do not wish to mention suicide at all, then delete questions 10 and 11 before printing the worksheet.) If you want to make completing the worksheets easier for the students, you can put the PowerPoint presentation on the screen in a rotating manner by doing the following:

1. Click on Transitions
2. Change the Advance Slide option to After and enter a number of seconds (perhaps 15 seconds).
3. Click Apply To All
4. Click on Slide Show
5. Click on Set Up Slide Show
6. Under Show options select Loop continuously until ‘Esc’
7. Click OK
8. Click From Beginning

Optional Additional Activity: As a class, or individually, have students visit the website, click on Take Action and follow the steps to take action and/or take some of the other actions they encourage at the end of the video.

Evaluation: Can be based on their participation in the class discussion as well as their answers to the worksheet questions (see the Tale of Grassy Narrows Answer Key).


Grassy Narrows Drinking Water – Background Assessment: Information for the Ontario Regional Director-General. (2018). Retrieved from

Grassy Narrows Drinking Water – Implementation Strategy: Advice for the Ontario Regional Director General. (2018). Retrieved from

Grassy Narrows mercury victims up to 6 times more likely to have debilitating health problems, report says. (2018). Retrieved from  

The Story of Grassy Narrows. (2016). Retrieved from