100 years of forced isolation ‘devastating’ says former chief

Road access is something many people in Canada take for granted.

For the people of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, it is something they have fought to have for a century.

In 1919, construction on an aqueduct to provide the growing city of Winnipeg with clean drinking was completed.

It was such a big deal that His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales was on hand for a formal opening.

The cost to the people of Shoal Lake 40 is one they continue to pay to this day.

Shoal Lake 40s prime land was expropriated for the massive project and the community was turned into a man made island.

Over the past 100 years, people have left their home community, Shoal Lake 40 fell under one of the longest boil water advisories in Canada and people literally died just trying to get home.

Erwin Redsky was the long-time Chief of Shoal Lake 40.  He says the 100 years of forced isolation have “been devastating.”

“When you’re trespassing on other people’s land to get home, it’s very frustrating” Redsky told Face to Face Host Dennis Ward.

“Even just to get home, to check the mail or get groceries for the family.  Having to cross a body of water to get there and whether it’s fall freeze up or spring thaw, it’s very dangerous and very difficult to live under these conditions and many people have left.”

Redsky details the struggles of his community and the efforts to right the wrongs of the past in the latest episode of Face to Face.

In the summer of 2019, another ceremony was held to commemorate a new, 24 kilometre, all season road dubbed “Freedom Road.”

Reconnecting to the mainland has also allowed for the community to begin work on a new water treatment plant to end a boil water advisory that has been constant for more than two decades.

Plans for a new school and housing are also in the works now that road access has given way to cheaper construction costs.

In late August, just days after funding for a water treatment plant was announced, Redsky said it was time for him to move on to the next stage in his life.

Redsky spent 14 years as the Chief of Shoal Lake 40 and was a councillor and administrator for a decade prior to that.

In a public statement, Redsky said “being an elected representative is incredibly demanding and my family paid a heavy price in the loss of my time and attention.”

Redsky says he’s enjoying his time away from politics.

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1 thought on “100 years of forced isolation ‘devastating’ says former chief

  1. Richard says:

    Just want to thank Mr. Redsky for his dedication to his community. I too felt I passed my family by to operate a business to make a living for my family. Mr. Redsky just spread himself over a much larger area than I.
    I hope Mr. Redsky doesn’t berate himself too badly or for too long as he must remember, his family was part of the community he helped on its way and he should be proud of his accomplishments! Hats off to Mr. Redsky!

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