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Sayisi Dene reflect on their relocation 60 years ago

The Sayisi Dene in Manitoba are the survivors of a government-forced relocation that happened in 1956. It was a catastrophic event in Indigenous history. It destroyed almost half the Sayisi Dene population but a lot of Canadians know nothing about it.
Sayisi Dene families, Caribou Post, 1935. Forced to leave their traditional lands and way of life, the Sayisi Dene lacked decent housing and services in Churchill for several years, despite government promises. Photo: Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba, HBCA 1987/336/N227 (Canadian Museum for Human Rights/Website)
The Sayisi Dene in Manitoba are the survivors of a government-forced relocation that happened in 1956, after the province wrongly blamed the Dene for a caribou shortage.

It was a catastrophic event in Indigenous history that destroyed almost half the Sayisi Dene population, but a lot of Canadians know nothing about it. 
  This week the federal government offered and apology and announced compensation for the forced relocation. 

"It was a hell of a ride for me. With all the dogs throwing up and the smell of it, when it came to our turn we still had to smell that and go for that ride wherever they were dropping us — at the shore of Churchill. There was no shelter waiting for us." — John Thorassie

"The thing that really bothers me about the relocation, they put the animals ahead of the people. And that was the reason that our people were relocated here." — Eva Yassie 

Eva Yassie holds a drum she found abandoned at Tadoule Lake. (CBC)

"I remember a bunch of us used to go there [the garbage dump]. And if there was a truck or a vehicle coming we used to hide behind the rocks because we were ashamed. But they had no other choice. They had no food or nothing." 
— 
Caroline Bjorkland

Sayisi Dene relocation survivor Eva Yassie points at Ila Oman's name who is listed on the memorial plaque. Her death remains unsolved. (CBC)

"There's so many people who died here after that relocation. It's pretty hard when you think about it.  You go up to the graveyard, you'll see all the people who died here." — Eva Yassie

Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett holds an eagle feather while offering the federal government apology to the Sayisi Dene. (CBC)

"Today I stand humbly before all of you and offer the following words: We are sorry ... It is unbearable to consider what you lost during the years in Churchill ... No one, and no people, should have had to experience such treatment in Canadian society." - Carolyn Bennett, minister of Indigenous and northern affairs

Kids play in Tadoule Lake, Man. (CBC)

"We, the Sayisi Dene, are our ancestors' wildest dreams." - Angela Code, whose mother was part of the relocation.





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