Blood Tribe members want to move as flood cleanup continues

Some members of the Blood Tribe in southwestern Alberta want their houses moved so they won't have to cleanup from yet another flood.

Reserve south of Calgary has been flooded 6 times in the last decade

Kim Black Water wants her house moved to higher ground. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Some members of the Blood Tribe in southwestern Alberta want their houses moved so they won't have to cleanup from yet another flood.

The reserve has experienced six floods in the last 10 years.

Last month hundreds of homes were damaged when the Oldman, St. Mary, Belly and Waterton rivers spilled their banks. The tribe declared a local state of emergency.

Dozens of roads were damaged and some were washed out. 

Moving houses to higher ground could be one solution in preventing future damage on the reserve, some tribe members say.

"It seems every two, three years we get flooded down here, it's not the first time and it won't be the last time," said  Kim Black Water, who lives near the Belly River. "Maybe one of these days you'll see my house going down the river."

Blood Tribe workers helped clean out her basement after more than one metre of water had collected during the flood.

Her hot water tank and furnace have already been replaced. She plans to leave her basement empty after it's restored so she won't lose anymore belongings if the area floods again next year.

"I love the trees, I love the scenery here, but I'm just tired of the flood," she said.

Returning Home

Andy Black Water and his family were only able to return to their home to live for the first time since the flood last month. He and nine family members stayed in a hotel while the basement was cleaned out.    

"It feels good," he said as he moved some supplies into the house. "It's nice to hear the birds sing."

Black Water helped clear out the house, throwing out the soggy belongings and water-logged drywall, but the 74-year-old became sick because of mould that had formed.

"It's not healthy for us to breathe in that air," he said. "It appears to be well enough to come back into."

Tribe officials say it's a top priority to sanitize all the affected houses. Mould has been a problem after past floods. 

Black Water said he would like to stay in his home near the river because of the wildlife, the berries and the peacefulness of living in the valley.

These items were pulled from Andy Black Water's basement during the flood. He still needs to see which items can be salvaged. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Cleanup Continues

Flood damaged homes are in various stages of restoration across the Blood Tribe's lands.

Some houses are gutted and cleaned, while others still have damaged belongings in the basement and are creating a smell in the rest of the house.

Harvey Many Fingers has emptied out his basement and is waiting for an inspection. 

He has yet to haul away everything that was damaged. Couches, dressers, mattresses, laundry machines, TVs and toys are some of the items piled on his front yard.

"There's still a lot of work to go, but we're hoping to get everything back to normal as soon as possible," said Many Fingers. "It's pretty tough, especially our neighbours, they're taking it hard too. So we're all helping each other seeing what we can do."

The tribe is applying for government compensation.

Flood damaged items fill Harvey Many Fingers' front yard. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)