Our Home and Native Land--Lake St. Martin After the Flood
MANITOBA, CANADA (2013-ongoing)
The First Nations people of Lake St. Martin have watched their homes grow moldy and their shorelines disappear since 1961 from repeated and intentional flooding by the Canadian province of Manitoba.
Eventually their ancestral lands were permanently flooded out and the people were evacuated from their uninhabitable homes in May 2011 to the province’s capital city of Winnipeg -- the very city that was saved at the expense of their 140-year old reserve.
Since May 2011 they continue to be displaced and their reserve has been condemned. They wait dispersed from friends and family in a loud and unfamiliar environment, a world away from their quiet reserve 255 kilometers north.
Lake St. Martin reserve is quiet as nearly all residents have taken part in the mandatory evacuation.
Mold seeps through the ceilings of a home belonging to one of the few people who refused to leave the reserve despite the mandatory evacuation and lack of running water.
Danielle Sinclair-Traverse at the condemned Lake St. Martin school that was flooded out long before the final evacuation.
A note found in a vacant home on Lake St. Martin reserve. Most of the band members thought they would be back in a few weeks not knowing that the displacement would drag on for years and that their community would eventually be deemed uninhabitable and that they would never to return home.
Natalie Forbes tries to calm her crying grandson Lucas as she walks up and down the halls of her temporary home in a one-bedroom hotel room in Winnipeg that she shares with her daughter. She has yet to return to the reserve since she was evacuated, and her house has since been demolished.
Kassidy Pelletier gets help with her graduation cap from her mother Jenny Pelletier before making her Grade 9 valedictorian speech at a temporary school in Winnipeg for Lake St. Martin students. She is one of four Grade 9 students to graduate in June out of 14 students who initially enrolled in the fall of 2012.
Rosey plays at a video lottery terminal (VLT) at the hotel where evacuees pick up their living allowance cheques once a month. In November 2012 their living allowance fell from $23 a day to $4 a day for all expenses besides rent. Gambling is readily available to many evacuees as their hotels feature VLTs and some are attached to casinos.
Lake St. Martin and other First Nations fisherman and their families protest the re-opening of the Lake St. Martin emergency channel. The province claims the outlet will alleviate flooding while fisherman claim it is devastating their fishing livelihood.
A pow-wow is held at a neighboring reserve which, unlike Lake St. Martin, continues to observe traditional practices.
Nearly 3 years after the flood Lake St. Martin residents continue to be displaced.