Little Sask. First Nation flood evacuee not convinced new homes will be flood-proof
By Austin Grabish
Bertha Travers cherishes the memories she has of her grandchildren.
The 67-year-old smiles as she pulls out aged photos of her grandkids from a large white envelope.
Her grandkids are sitting on a slide next to a swing set in the first photo, Travers’ granddaughter is swimming in clear water in the second, and a deer is walking on crisp green grass in the third.
But the photos she’s holding in her hands are all Travers has left of these memories.
“This is my son’s yard,” Travers said. “It’s just swamp now.”
The 2011 flood evacuee from Little Saskatchewan First Nation is one of more than 400 from the reserve who have yet to return home.
“Those were the days when you were happy, when you were at home and enjoying family. The togetherness,” Travers said. “And all that is gone now.”
Travers’ home was completely destroyed in the flood and she spent five years living in hotels before finally settling in a Winnipeg home last year.
She says her people face racism and discrimination on a regular basis in Winnipeg and culture shock has been a problem for many who had never left the reserve before.
“It’s completely alien,” she said referring to the City of Winnipeg. “They don’t have the supports that they had in terms of camaraderie with their fellow band members and that was important.”
Travers has settled in Winnipeg and found work as a mental health resource worker but even she isn’t sure if she wants to return to her First Nation.
Last year, Little Saskatchewan First Nation signed its support for a new road and 60 houses that are to be built through a cost-sharing partnership between the federal and provincial governments.
But Travers isn’t convinced the homes will be flood-proof and doesn’t want to live in a town site on swampland.
“A town site setting is only going to promote more crime,” she said. “The water is not clear. The water is contaminated and you can’t even bathe in that water.
“We want to have a place that we can call home.”
Little Saskatchewan First Nation is located nearly 300 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
— First published in the Express Weekly News print edition April 27, 2015, p.5