Red Earth evacuees say reserve needs long-term flood fix

After four flood-related evacuations of the reserve over ten years, members of the Red Earth Cree Nation say they need help flood-proofing their community.

Over past decade, band members have been forced from their homes four times

Evacuees from the Red Earth Cree Nation await buses at Saskatoon's Henk Ruys Soccer Centre on Monday, as they prepare to return home. (CBC)

After spending four nights sleeping on army-style cots, members of the Red Earth Cree Nation say they're relieved to be back home this morning.

"We can't keep doing this," said band councillor Fabian Head in Saskatoon on Monday, as he watched family members pack the box of his pickup truck with foam mats and duffel bags.

Floodwater from the Carrot River forced an evacuation of the Swampy Cree reserve on Thursday, forcing 576 people from their homes. Most evacuees stayed at Saskatoon's Henk Ruys Soccer Centre, while others stayed at the Travelodge.

"The water was coming down from the south as well," Head said. "We had water coming down from the hills, from the Pasquia Hills. And the water table obviously was a factor in the floods."

Flood mitigation measures needed

Fabian Head, a band councillor on the Red Earth Cree Nation, says his reserve needs a better solution to stop flooding. Floods have forced people from the First Nation east of Nipawin out of their homes four times in the past decade.

Head said it's time to put stronger flood prevention and mitigation measures into place for his community. He said that should start with the construction of flood barriers and dykes around access roads and the lone highway into the community.

Officials said no critical infrastructure was damaged in the flood, but a water main was still being repaired Monday, as busloads of band members drove home.

"This will be our fourth evacuation in the span of ten years," Head said. "People know the drill in terms of what to pack, and obviously medication and clothing are the important ones."

Evacuations costly, stressful

Head said the evacuations have been very difficult for members of his band.

"We hope we can grab the ears of the government now, both levels of government, in terms of trying to open a dialogue to provide adequate resources for mitigation and equipment," he said.

Provincial officials said any construction on the First Nation would have to be paid for and approved by the federal department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

The Red Earth Cree Nation is located about 75 kilometres east of Nipawin.