Red Earth and Shoal Lake leaders call on province to mobilize more response to protect ancestral lands against wildfires
(Treaty 5 Territory) – Red Earth Cree Nation and Shoal Lake Cree Nation have issued evacuation orders for its members and residents at highest risk of smoke from wildfires in its region. On Thursday, September 30th, 440 evacuees were evacuated from Shoal Lake Cree Nation to Prince Albert, and, as of today, Red Earth Cree Nation community members will also be 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.
“We are thankful for the planning and preparations by our Emergency Response Team that ensured air purifiers were available to each home, which were put in place after the wildfires and smoke conditions over this past summer. The air purifiers have given our members and residents some relief from the smoke; however, we have been monitoring and assessing the situation, and today we decided to evacuate approximately 200 Priority One members who would be most impacted by the smoke,” said Chief Fabian Head of Red Earth Cree Nation.
For Shoal Lake Cree Nation, its Emergency Response Team have pulled together support from its health staff, bus drivers and other volunteers to support the evacuation effort for its community. Chief Marcel Head said it was a last resort.
“An evacuation order was something we did not wish to have to call. It is a very traumatic ordeal for our people, but we need to keep the health, wellness, and safety of all our people front and center. 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,” said Chief Marcel Head of Shoal Lake Cree Nation.
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. Over the past few days, fire suppression crews have been deployed to support the firefighting efforts. Three helicopters and tankers have been assigned by the Saskatchewan Public Service Agency, but the leaders say that more needs to be done.
“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,” said Chief Fabian Head.
“We are deeply concerned by the threat of the wildfires to our territories, ancestral lands, and resources. Our economies are dependent on a healthy and vibrant territorial land base for our people, and for the animals, birds, fish, plants, insects and waters. 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,” said Chief Marcel Head.
Media enquiries may be directed to:
Chief Fabian Head
Red Earth Cree Nation
Email: [email protected]
Chief Marcel Head
Shoal Lake Cree Nation
Email: [email protected]