Red Earth and Shoal Lake Cree Nations evacuate from smoke

·2 min read

TREATY 5 — Red Earth Cree Nation and Shoal Lake Cree Nation chiefs are asking the provincial government to put more resources into fighting the wildfires, as both communities issue evacuation orders.

The fires and smoke that are coming into the area from the Crackling River and the foothills of the Pasquia Hills are closer to our communities than the Bell Fire, which has increased to 46,500 hectares from yesterday.

Three helicopters and tankers have been assigned by the Saskatchewan Public Service Agency, but the leaders say that more needs to be done.

“We are deeply concerned by the threat of the wildfires to our territories, ancestral lands, and resources,” said Chief Marcel Head of Shoal Lake Cree Nation.

“We are communities that follow the ‘Cree way of life’ and we continue to be based on a hunter-gatherer-based economy. If the province does not put more resources into fighting the wildfires, our communities will suffer from its impacts for years to come.”

Evacuation orders are being issued for those at highest risk of smoke from wildfires in its region.

Head said they didn’t want to have to call the evacuation order, but the health, wellness and safety of the population made them act.

“We have mobilized other available response and support measures to join the efforts to fight the fires and to monitor the fire situation and secure our members and community residences, property and assets. For the second time this summer, we are doing all what we possibly can to assure our people and to give them some measure of comfort in a stressful situation.”

On September 30, 440 individuals were evacuated from Shoal Lake Cree Nation to Prince Albert. The community’s emergency response team pulled together support from its health staff, bus drivers and other volunteers to support the evacuation effort in the community.

As of Oct. 4, Red Earth Cree Nation community members who would be most impacted by the smoke were evacuated to Regina and Saskatoon.

Prince Albert Grand Council’s Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management (SFNEM), the Canadian Red Cross have been providing support, along with the federal and provincial emergency response measures agencies and city municipal support systems from Prince Albert and Regina.

Chief Fabian Head of Red Earth Cree Nation thanked the planning and preparations by their emergency response team that ensured air purifiers were available to each home.

“Given both the short-term and long-term threats of the wildfires, we urge the government of Saskatchewan to act, and to mobilize their available resources to enhance and expand the effort to extinguish the wildfires in our areas for the sake and safety of our people, and for the lands and all the resources upon which we have sustained ourselves for generations since the day before Treaty, the day of Treaty and the day after Treaty,” Chief Fabian Head said.

Jessica Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal

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