Tornado leaves Sask. reserve traumatized
"I went to this debriefing sharing circle at the band office, and I actually got to express how I felt and let out some tears like I never did before," said Allanis Asapace.
Asapace and her family were in their home when the tornado hit without warning last Friday around 5:30 p.m.
The tornado was classified as an F3 in terms of intensity, with winds of 250 to 300 km/h. There were no serious injuries, but one insurance estimate places the physical damage to buildings in the $3-million range.
The emotional damage is more difficult to quantify, say community leaders.
Residents have been left to cope with the tornado's after-effects: namely, fear, trauma and the loss of their dwellings and possessions.
Government officials say the entire community has been affected by post-traumatic stress. Some residents have refused to leave the damaged areas and others not directly hit by the tornado have flocked to the tornado-hit sites and don't want to leave.
Crisis counselors and therapists have arrived in the community to help, stressing that talking about what happened is an important part of accepting it. As time passes, people are starting to realize that losing a home is almost like losing a family member, the counselors say.
Grant Severight of the White Raven Healing Centre said counselors are taking on the role of being good listeners.
He said First Nations communities are close-knit collectives and healing together is what seems to work best for them.
Kawacatoose First Nation is about 120 km north of Regina, near Raymore, Sask. About 1,100 people live on the reserve in only 190 houses – which amounts to an average of almost six people per dwelling.