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The welcoming committee
Basic needs that are taken for granted in the south are non-existent in the northern community of Lac La Hache, 515 miles northeast of Saskatoon.
On July 13, the Saskatchewan Indian staff visited the community and found that running water, sewage systems and even basic literacy are uncommon. The older people in the community cannot read or write.
Although, the youth, which represent half the community, are getting a better education, they have to leave the reserve for further training. But they want to work. When they leave, however, they encounter cultural shock and language difficulties, which almost always drives them back. It's a time bomb situation.
"What's happening in this town is that basic needs are just not being met while the government and industry are continually pounding for more involvement with the (uranium) mines." said Miles Goldstick, an employee of the band.
A community planning study has been done for the band four times since the mid-70's and each time the results are the same. However, whatever basic needs projects that happen are completely inadequate.
Government approach to the situation is geared away from local community projects opting for wage employment in the local uranium mines. In housing, occupancy levels are about 10-15 per house, according to Goldstick.
Although the band's total budget is unknown, even millions of dollars would be inadequate. If each family got $4,000.00 a year, it would add up to $4 million. This sounds like a lot of money on face value when in actuality, it only provides for a subsistance lifestyle.
|Bernadette Tsannie, 4, doing chores||
Councillor Jimmy Kkaikka is married,
has 11 childeren, and is a grandfather.
The oldest member of the community,
Marie Antsinen, is 97 years old.
There is no youth centre or clubhouse,
so the wear and tear on the community shows.
Consequently, most of the band members hunt and fish to supplement their incomes. Some people still commercial fish.
Jim Kkaiki has been on the band council for two years. He has 11 children. Fishing, trapping and stockpiling wood keeps his family warm and fed. Like many others in the community, he is out on the trapline from October to spring, coming home only for Christmas.
With the help of the Collins Bay Coalition and other anti-uranium groups from the south, the band initiated a road block to the gates of the Rabbit Lake Mines in June. It lasted for several days, attracting national media attention to their plight.
While the humanities are basic disciplines and values in society's systems, millions of dollars are spent in the nuclear industry and uranium boom and the basic needs of native communities go unmet. Yet, it is a calculated and not uninformed risk in the name of the progress.
In a statement, Mary Anne Kkailther said; "We told the company (Eldorado Resources) and the government, we don't want the Collins Bay `B Zone' but they did not listen. We cannot sit back and let them go on destroying the land and the water. We live off the land..."