Grand Chief Jerry Daniels and Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson are calling on the federal and the provincial governments to put aside jurisdictional disagreements and focus on flood protection and the replacement of housing for hundreds of flood refugees.
“Peguis citizens have been caught in the middle of disputes between the federal and provincial governments for many generations, and now it’s time to work together and focus on solutions to build permanent flood infrastructure, similar to what exists in non-Indigenous communities across this province,” said Chief Hudson.
“Beyond the loss of hundreds of homes and the many lives disrupted, this annual crisis continues to cause deep trauma to hundreds of Peguis families,” said Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Daniels. “This only adds to the trauma First Nation people have already suffered as Survivors of colonial policies, including residential schools. We need to move forward together to address this injustice.”
Peguis was once located on dry fertile land in the Selkirk area, but the Anishinaabe community was forced to relocate after their land was taken in an illegal surrender in 1907 and given to non-Indigenous farmers. The community was moved to its current location on flat land in the northern Interlake region near Fisher River, which is prone to flooding. Those who did not agree to move were jailed.
“The lack of proper permanent infrastructure to protect Peguis from recurring flooding constitutes nothing less than systemic racism,” stated William Sutherland, Emergency Management lead for Peguis. “How else could this double-standard exist when it comes to the flood protection of First Nation communities versus non-Indigenous communities, and the lack of funding to replace the homes of hundreds of Peguis flood evacuees?”
Several studies over the years have identified options to address the reoccurring flooding of Peguis First Nation, but these have never been implemented.
“Due to chronic underfunding of infrastructure, including flood prevention measures by governments, flooding episodes never end for Peguis,” concluded Chief Hudson. “Most of the houses are never re-built as a result of underfunding, and so many members can never come back to live in their community among their people. That is why I call these members “refugees”, not evacuees. I don’t think it’s reasonable to call someone an ‘evacuee’ in a context where that person is away from home for more than a decade.”
Peguis First Nation and the Southern Chiefs’ Organization believe in reconciliation. We are calling on our federal and provincial Treaty partners to invest in interim and permanent flooding infrastructure for Peguis First Nation and to replace the houses destroyed by flooding over the years.
The Peguis Wellness Team, Southern Chiefs’ Organization Mobile Crisis Response Team, and other health and wellness teams have come together to support those impacted by the flooding.