Upset with post-flood housing plans, protesters remain in teepee at entrance to construction site

In what he believes to be the longest blockade in Siksika history, Ben Crow Chief continues to stand strong in his demand for answers about how chief and council are handling construction plans for new homes on the reserve east of Calgary.

Crow Chief is one of many Siksika members still living in temporary ATCO trailers after they were evacuated from their low-lying homes during the Bow River flood of 2013. Several weeks ago, he and others constructed a teepee and set up signs protesting the lack of consultation in post-flood rebuilding, blocking access to an area where construction of new homes is underway.

“The construction started behind here, and everyone was saying, ‘Who are they building for?’” said Crow Chief. “And then we found out it was for us. We weren’t even consulted.”

Crow Chief and his fellow protesters have been living in the teepee beside the roadblock for more than 40 days. They demanded that the band and council provide a more transparent review of the post-flooding plan.

Crow Chief explained that his group decided to seek legal advice after realizing they could no longer deal with the situation internally. According to Crow Chief, members of Siksika’s band office promised a more thorough review of post-flood planning, but if no satisfactory action plan is set forth by Thursday Dec. 17, Crow Chief threatened the matter will move to court.

Signs are posted beside the road leading to the construction zone. The teepee visible in the background is where some members of the Siksika nation have been staying for the past several weeks as part of a protest. Photo by Mascha Scheele

He added that the evacuees were consulted initially and were able to pick three areas for their new homes. However, the construction zone includes none of the chosen areas.

Chief Vincent Yellow Old Woman, who some residents say is in charge of the rebuilding funds, said he is taking the threats to “go legal” very seriously.

“But I don’t want to say anything at this point. No comment, because I don’t want to implicate the nation.”

Previously reported by the Huffington Post on Nov. 5, Chief Yellow Old Woman said there was a communication gap and he was working towards resolving the issue.

Crow Chief said a petition circulated and demanded an accounting of how $80 million provided by the government was being spent.

Crow Chief says he and others have many issues with the construction zone as it’s the site of a slough. But Siksika councillor Marsha Wolf Collar told the Calgary Herald Dec. 12 that some residents want to move to that area and the teepee blockade is stopping the development from moving forward.

Crow Chief vowed to stay in the teepee for as long as he needs to until he gets answers. “Even if it means setting up a Christmas tree,” he said.

 mscheele@cjournal.ca

This story was edited by Cameron Perrier cperrier@cjournal.ca