Native flood evacuees find refuge in Manitoba lodge
Members of a Manitoba First Nation who are displaced from their homes due to spring flooding have a "home away from home" in a tourist lodge hundreds of kilometres away.
About 200 people from the Little Saskatchewan First Nation were among the thousands of aboriginal Manitobans who had to leave their First Nations because of historic floods this past spring.
Most flood evacuees continue to reside temporarily in Winnipeg hotel rooms, but the Little Saskatchewan members are staying at the Misty Lake Lodge & Conference Centre near Gimli, Man., more than 225 kilometres southeast of the First Nation.
"At home … my kids had their freedom of running around. Here, they have that; in a hotel room, you don't," said Mary Rose McKay, a Little Saskatchewan member.
Misty Lake Lodge owner Michael Bruneau said the flood evacuees and the lodge staff have become close over the past eight months.
"It's like a family atmosphere, for sure," he said.
Members work, gain skills
As her children have fun in a large playroom set up inside the lodge, McKay waits on tables and washes dishes at the hotel's restaurants for several hours a day.
"You leave your job [and] everything, and then you come to nothing," said McKay, who had a job back home before the flood.
"They offered me work here, so I do lunch hours."
Meanwhile, about a dozen men from the First Nation are working on Bruneau's nearby cottage construction site.
"We can train some of our guys, then take those skills home," said Chief Gerald Anderson. "When everything gets settled, those skills will come [in] very handy."
Anderson said while he does not know when his members can return to the First Nation, he hopes some of them can start working soon to build and rebuild some badly needed homes.