Marty and Kim Woods in June returned to the shell of their home for the first time since before Christmas. The yard is overgrown, the lilacs are almost done blooming. A door is a few steps away, but they walked around the house, and in through the back door out of habit. The family home passed down through the generations on Siksika Nation reserve was clobbered in last year’s flood.
Now they live in the Days Inn & Suites in Strathmore, about 45 kilometres away. They are safe, but unhappy. Their five kids have not returned to the house since they were forced to flee a year ago.
“It hurts, seeing what used to be,” Mr. Woods says. “The happiness of the kids playing in the yard, us on the deck, cooking on the BBQ, dogs running free.”
The valley is lush, the hedges untrimmed. “Hear those birds? Smell the lilacs? Imagine sitting out here in the morning.”
Hundreds of Albertans are still homeless because of last year’s floods. But the situation is further complicated for reserve residents, who are caught between three levels of government.
“There’s no transparency in our local government,” Mr. Woods said. “Apparently our leadership is too busy to talk to us.”
Residents at the Days Inn have formed an unofficial alliance; Mr. Woods is their spokesman. They figure they have a better chance of finding answers if they speak as one. They want to know about Siksika’s relief funding and recovery plans. But Mr. Woods says they can’t get answers.
“We’re just being treated like little children,” Mr. Woods said.
More than two dozen Siksika residents are being put up in hotels. Most are at the Days Inn, others at the Coast Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre in Calgary.
Alberta’s department of Aboriginal Relations says it can not pinpoint how much this costs. However, the government has approved $93-million for housing recovery on Siksika, and $98-million is required on Stoney Nakoda First Nation. On Siksika, 335 people are in relief shelters, and 357 are in interim housing on Stoney.
Mr. Woods is taking a heavy-duty equipment training course on Siksika now, as part of the government’s retraining effort tied to the flood. But only three of 18 people enrolled are flood victims, he said. The training, however, gives the Woods family hope they will recover.