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.


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.

After decades of watching their homes grow moldy Lake St. Martin Residents were finally permanently flooded out in May 2011 many in which continue to live in temporary housing. 

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Lake St. Martin reserve is quiet as nearly all residents have taken part in the mandatory evacuation.

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Danielle Sinclair-Traverse at the condemned Lake St. Martin school that was flooded out long before the final evacuation.

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Single mother Edee O’mara holds her youngest daughter Moon as she takes a break from moving her family for the 44th time in 6 years. The trauma of moving her family yet another time in this long displacement is palpable.

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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.

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A pregnant teen girl from Lake St. Martin and her boyfriend spend the way watching television.

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Kassidy Pelletier, 16, walks through her childhood home on the reserve to see the house before it is demolished. Kassidy was doing dishes in this kitchen when she heard about the evacuation; on her short return visit, she found her house had been looted and vandalized, like many other homes on the reserve.
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Moon cuddles on a small rug during her family's 44th move. Her mother tells me that in order to feel a sense o security, Moon builds a rug in the corner of all the hotels and temporary homes they have been evacuated to.

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Five-year-old Izrael Peebles who has Dystonia, a  neurological disorder which keeps him in diapers, unable to walk, and causes him to twist his limbs due to muscle contractions, receives one of many soothing baths daily at his grandparents' temporary home. His pregnant mother lives in a rough north-end neighbourhood in the city.
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Diane Sinclair, whose 21-year-old daughter Alexis took her life weeks after the evacuation, visits her daughter’s grave with her granddaughter Danielle Sinclair-Traverse at Lake St. Martin reserve. The mother of nine cares for the four-year-old following her daughter’s death.
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Margaret Traverse prays at a church service in Winnipeg. She attends church services multiple times a week as it is one of the few opportunities she has to leave her hotel, located far from the city centre.
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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.

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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.

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Margaret Traverse, who has lived on Lake St. Martin Reserve all her life and has been shuffled to numerous hotels, speaks on the phone as house keeping cleans her hotel room.
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Evacuee Becky Sinclair, who now rents a home with two others after living in numerous hotels, has a beer in her favourite quiet spot behind a hotel which houses evacuees in Winnipeg. Many of the hotels evacuees reside in have beer vendors and bars.
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Rio, who is cared for by his elderly family members, is soothed at a restaurant. 

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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.

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A traditional pow-wow is held at a neighbouring reserve where a few Lake St. Martin band members attended. The long displacement has made it difficult for an otherwise tight-knit community to practice customs and language that goes along with that.

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A dead duck lies still after being shot at Lake St. Martin reserve.
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After such a long 7-year displacement a new land deal withe government has finally been struck and construction underway. But the question for many remains-- where is the best place for your family when your children are in schools and have adjusted to live in the city? So much has been lost that cannot be rebuilt and what can be rebuilt on this new land which experts have questioned it's viability and flood-prone history. 

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