First Nations evacuees find city life hard

It's been nearly a month since flooding forced residents from a dozen First Nations communities, and many are finding life difficult in Winnipeg.

It's been nearly a month since flooding forced residents from a dozen First Nations communities, and many are finding life difficult in Winnipeg.

The Traverse family, which had to leave its home in Lake St. Martin — about 300 kilometres north of Winnipeg — has been stuck at the Marlborough Hotel since April.

Gordon Traverse said it's not only tiresome to live in the city when you're not used to it, it's getting dangerous, too.

Two teenagers got attacked by boys who called themselves gang members, he said, though they were just young people who wanted to cause trouble for the natives coming to Winnipeg.

Worse, he said, are incidents directed at his own family — wife Shirley and daughters Deena, 4 and Taryn, 2.

Once at a bus stop, he said, Shirley was checking a schedule when a stranger grabbed Deena's hand.

"Some guy came up to her and held her hand and talked to her and she said 'My mommy,'" Shirley Traverse recalled. "I didn't know she was talking to somebody. That really scared me."

Earlier this week, Gordon Traverse added, a man followed the family right into the hotel in a bid to intimidate them.

Traverse said called security and they kicked the person out. Nevertheless, he would rather have his family at home in Lake St. Martin.

'Really, really sickening'

However, that might never happen. The entire reserve has been evacuated and the damage is so bad people might never be able to live there again.

Jennifer Pelletier and her seven children understand the Traverse's situation.

Pelletier became so worried about the dangers downtown, she asked to be moved from the Marlborough Hotel to one farther away where they feel a little safer.

"What are you allowed to do here?" asked daughter Breanna Pelletier. "Stay inside and just walk around and watch TV?"

Danis Pelletier is feeling so depressed she couldn't explain how bad she feels.

Brenda Pelletier said she'll have to tell her children soon that they may never be able to go home again and that it could  be months before they can get into their own place near their home reserve.

"I miss my cleaning, I miss having to cook my own meals and not eating out all the time," she said. "It is really, really sickening."

The Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters has been looking after the evacuees since they were forced from their homes.

Their figures suggest that on any given day about 1,100 people are out of their homes, and that figure could rise as flooding continues and forest fire season heats up

The association said it is doing its best to entertain the evacuees and keep them safe until they can finally let people leave the city to return to their home, if that ever happens.

The First Nation is negotiating a short-term solution with the province that could see evacuees move into trailer homes near the community of Hilbre, about 228 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

However, the soonest the new site might be ready for occupancy is September.

And that solution could be made permanent, with the construction of houses, a school and infrastructure.