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Peguis First Nation members thankful for community meal after difficult year of flooding, COVID-19


Up to 400 people gathered at Peguis First Nation on Sunday to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together, documenting the things they are grateful for after a very difficult year.

More than five months after 2,100 community members were evacuated from First Nation in Manitoba’s Interlake area due to severe flooding, more than 800 people are still being forced to flee their homes, Sheriff Glenn Hudson said.

“It’s great to be all together now,” said band councilor Glenis Sutherland.

“With COVID and flooding and we still have a lot of people evacuating in the city and different places, so it’s nice to see people here today and out to enjoy a home-cooked meal.”

She said some women in the community have come together to cook for their members, offering a free meal and the chance to socialize with friends.

Glenis Sutherland said it was wonderful to see so many community members getting together after a difficult few years. (Thomas Asselin / Radio-Canada)

Peguis member Cyndi Prince attended the meal and said the flooding was challenging for so many in her family.

“It has torn many people apart, and it still happens. It’s sad, but it’s great when the community comes together and gets together and talks to each other again,” she said.

Hudson said the 800 members still staying at the hotel will also receive Thanksgiving meals, but management wanted to do something special for those staying at home.

“People have been through a lot of trauma with the flooding and obviously with the pandemic, there aren’t many gatherings. So this allows them to feel more comfortable in a community setting,” he said. “.

Seth Whitford, 22, places sandbags in the Peguis First Nation in a photo taken in May. The First Nation suffered devastating flooding in 2022, and Sheriff Glenn Hudson says it needs support from the provincial and federal governments to make sure they’re prepared for the next one. (Jaison Empson / CBC)

On May 1, local officials issued a mandatory evacuation order, as the river washed away roads and broke dikes.

Some community members have stayed behind to operate the tiger dam, sandbags and do whatever they can to protect people’s homes.

Since then, Hudson says a lot of cleanup work has taken place, but the biggest project has yet to be completed.

The sheriff said he is still waiting for the federal and provincial governments to sit down and draw up a plan to prevent future flooding.

A playground is besieged by floodwaters on Peguis First Nation on May 6. Water has receded around the Interlake community, but the chief said more than 800 people remain in the hotel because their homes are uninhabitable. . (Jaison Empson / CBC)

“It’s important to upgrade so our community doesn’t come to a standstill during floods and that’s what we’ve been waiting to do,” Hudson said.

“It’s not the greatest, I would say, the support… Today we’re waiting for a [memorandum of understanding] to sign with the federal government and assemble working groups with the province, but that hasn’t happened yet. “

Even after the floods of 2006, 2009, 2011, 2014 and now this year, Peguis still has no permanent flood protection for all 3,053 people living in the community.

CBC News requested comment from the federal and provincial governments, but did not immediately receive a response.

All other communities in the Red River Valley – including smaller centers like Morris, Emerson, St. Adolphe and Roseau River First Nation – protected by embankments built high enough to prevent floodwaters.

“We want to do the same with our community, our First Nation here, and that’s what we’re working towards right now,” Hudson said.

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