A Dakota Ojibway Police Service vehicle crosses a bridge over a swollen creek after checking on evacuated houses on the north side of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in this June photo. What was supposed to be a short stay at a Brandon hotel is now in its third month for many Sioux Valley flood evacuees.
As school begins, some Sioux Valley Dakota Nation students — still displaced from this summer’s flooding and living in Brandon — will have shorter school days and will have to be shuttled to and from the reserve’s school every day.
More than 140 evacuees have been living at the Royal Oak Inn and Suites since the end of June, including approximately 50 students, who are still waiting for home repairs after Sioux Valley was pounded by this summer’s flooding.
It was initially thought evacuees would be back home in July.
Students at both the Sioux Valley Elementary School on reserve and the Sioux Valley High School in Brandon will be bused from the hotel every day. Elementary school students will be let go at 2:30 p.m., and lost class time will have to made up later in the year, according to Sioux Valley Chief Vince Tacan.
He didn’t say how long the repairs will likely take, but more than 60 homes are in need of work and some families have moved home with mouldy rooms isolated with plastic.
It’s estimated four to six homes are in "terrible" shape.
"I didn’t expect us to be this long," Tacan said. "My goal was to have the students back in the community by now.
"We want to take every precaution to fix the houses properly before we bring the kids back."
Tacan said the mould removal in the homes is complete and trained crews will begin repairing homes this week. Four crews will be working at a time and two more crews will be added once labour and material estimates are submitted and approved.
The paperwork needed to be done is one reason for the prolonged work schedule, Tacan said.
"For the evacuees, they want to be home with their families as with anyone else," he said. "I can understand what they’re going through."
Tacan said he believes Sioux Valley is moving faster than other flooded First Nations and said all of the band administration’s time has been preoccupied with flood repair.
"There are other bands that don’t have the means to mitigate any of the problems experienced as a result of the flooding," he said.
Meanwhile, mould was found in the gymnasium and two classrooms of the Sioux Valley High School in Brandon while the building was being cleaned last month, and school administration may decide to keep the gym closed as school gets underway.
Tacan said administration is also monitoring the situation.
"It’s one thing after the other and it’s tough to stay ahead of the game," he said.
What was expected to be a short stay at a Brandon hotel is now in its third month for many, and frustration is mounting, according to one evacuee.
"I haven’t had a summer," said Debbie Ross, who has been living at the Royal Oak Inn and Suites since June 29 with several family members, including her 12-year-old grandson Blaze Tacan, who starts his first year of high school today.
Her house is still gutted after her basement flooded and she said she hasn’t been given a timeline on when she can go back home.
"I don’t want to see my house," she said. "(After the flood) I sat in there and cried."
Today, Ross will check out and move to another hotel.
"I thought we’d just be here a week."
This week, the Canadian Red Cross will take over responsibility of evacuees from the Manitoba Association of Firefighters.
Tacan said the organization is better equipped to deal with the situation in the long term and has access to services such as counselling.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 2, 2014