The Manitoba government has apologized for its role in the forced relocation of the Sayisi Dene from Duck Lake to Churchill in 1956.
After the forced move the Dene lived in deplorable conditions near Churchill until community members moved closer back to their traditional area hunting area at Tadoule Lake in 1973. In less than two decades, nearly one-third of the Sayisi Dene had died as a result of violence, poverty and racism experienced on the outskirts of Churchill.
The decision to relocate the Duck Lake band was made partly on the strength of reports from Manitoba officials who believed the traditional hunting practices of the Dene were contributing to a decline in the numbers of caribou. It was later found the caribou herd was healthy.
"This disgraceful and sad chapter in Manitoba history must be acknowledged," Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson said at a ceremony Monday near Churchill. "While the federal government of the time was responsible for the relocation, others, including provincial officials, contributed to the tragedy," he said. "The Province of Manitoba accepts responsibility for erroneous information that validated the relocation and commits to moving forward in a better way."
"It's a new day to fly!" said Sayisi Dene Chief Jimmy Thorassie. "This is an important step on the path or reconciliation and healing."
Manitoba is expected to give the band more than 13,000 acres of Crown land to help address the effects of the relocation. The Sayisi Dene of Tadoule Lake number about 360 people.