Most residents of the Blood reserve south of Calgary forced out of their homes by flooding last week have been allowed to return, band officials said Tuesday.
“We are moving into the recovery phase of this event, and so we are moving forward,” fire Chief Oscar Cotton told CBC News.
“The others have pretty much gone back home and are involved in the cleanup and the recovery at the moment, which is going on, and they're going to be in their homes as soon as they are given approval by the housing department.”
However, the band wants financial assistance from the provincial or federal government to make sure the homes they're returning to are safe.
"We are talking about people's lives," said Marcel Weasel Head, a chief and council member. "They need to be addressed. A lot of them want to go back home."
About 24 residences remain empty, down from about 230 at the height of the crisis, said band spokesman Rick Tailfeathers.
“Some of them have health issues so they're being housed in hotels close to medical facilities," Tailfeathers said. "And that's about five families.”
However, he added, dozens more homes will need to be cleaned and inspected. Keeping mould from growing in affected homes will be a major concern, officials said.
Tailfeathers said the band office is coordinating offers to volunteer or make donations. The local food bank is in desperate need of food, water and cleaning supplies, officials said.
The band is also assessing how much work will have to be done on roads that were damaged by the flooding, Tailfeathers said.
The Blood Tribe, otherwise known as Kainai Nation, is the largest First Nation community in Canada.
About 12,000 members live in a community 200 kilometres south of Calgary encircled by four rivers — Oldman, St. Mary, Belly and Waterton.