When Martina Norwegian returned to the Fort Simpson Historical Society building last week, she initially thought it had survived this month's flooding unscathed.
That changed when she opened the door to the basement. Looking down the stairs, she saw the watermark left on the walls. "When I saw the water had come up seven steps, there was no emotion. There was just nothing there," she said.
"I've been doing this for 30 years, but this is the biggest impact.
Norwegian and another volunteer spent a day and a half mopping water out of the basement and installing a fan and dehumidifier, stretching an extension cord from a neighbouring building.
While the basement contained no artwork or historical pieces, it did house the organization’s conference room and kitchen – facilities the organization rents out to help pay for expenses like utilities.
Norwegian, the president of the Fort Simpson Historical Society, said flooring now needs to be ripped up, a new conference table must be bought, and all the kitchen counters and cupboards need to be replaced.
The non-profit organization, located across from the village’s schools, is run by volunteers with the exception of one employee. The now-ruined conference table was a donation and the society fundraised to pay for the previous flooring.
Now, the Fort Simpson Historical Society is getting a helping hand from Can Pro Restorations, a company affiliated with the Arcan group.
On Friday, workers began volunteering time to rip out the basement floor, insulation, and drywall.
“Talking to the chief in the community, we discovered that the heritage centre was greatly affected and they didn’t have any insurance and they didn’t know what to do,” said Aaron Doyle, president of Arcan.
“We do a lot of work with the community and in a small community like that, you become a part of it, and you hate to see things get destroyed.
“People [have] no resources to help out and if we can help out and we have the resources, then we’d like to do it.”
Staff stayed during the flooding to help set up generators, move supplies and food, and set up emergency tents.
Norwegian said it’s a relief to have help as many residents are “stretched to the limit right now” trying to fix their own homes.
“It was like, first of all, who do I get?” she said. “I know I have to do this, everyone’s telling me I have to do this, but I don’t know how or who. I just didn’t know what to do.
“I wouldn’t have even fathomed how much it would’ve cost us. Now, it just cuts the costs way back and gives us more money to rebuild and to fix it all up again.”
The organization was already busy planning events and an exhibit for this summer's recognition of the 100th year since Treaty 11 was signed.
Because of the flooding, it’s “on to plan B,” Norwegian said. A committee will meet next week to see what can still be done.
Emelie Peacock contributed reporting.
Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio