Experiencing Break-Up Season

By: Sam Calio, Community Journalism Trainer

Wachiye* from Fort Albany First Nation!

It has been a very exciting time in Fort Albany. The moment I landed in community people started mentioning something called “break-up” and the goose hunt. Both equally important to this community. Unfortunately, I was unable to partake in the goose hunt but I am now experiencing break-up season!

At first I didn’t think much of it. The ice was going to break. The water was going to rise. It’s something that happens every year. Then a few weeks ago, things started to really kick in. The helicopter arrived. The flood watch team was assembled and surveillance was amped up to twice a day. That’s when it hit me. I could be evacuated, the community displaced. This could cause serious damage.

Sam Calio/JHR Ice breaking up on the Albany River as water levels rise.

After a short freak-out over the phone with my program coordinator (Leigh), I was assured everything would be fine. Friends here informed me that the last time the whole community was evacuated was in 2008. With this information I felt a bit better. Then my friends told me, if I see water on the roads I should run!

Then it happened! On Wednesday, May 1, around 3pm, news broke that break-up was fast approaching. The school started sending students home and was closed for the rest of the week.

Fort Albany is made up of three areas: mainland, Anderson’s Island and Sinclair Island. Every break up season the mainland – which houses the hospital, community members, airport and the beloved Loone’s Variety and Gas Bar or as the locals call it “Norman’s” – is separated from the islands. The causeway that links the mainland to the islands floods.

Sam Calio/JHR The causeway that connects the mainland to Sinclair Island officially flooded May 2, 2019.

Now back to the action. People from the mainland were running over to Sinclair Island to get last minute supplies from Northern Store, I had never seen so many people at the store at one time. Students were situating themselves at home and workers were packing up to leave.  As for me, my friends and I made our way over to Norman’s to get our last cup of coffee before break-up.

The causeway officially flooded at 6:05 am on May 2. This also meant that my programming was put on hold. I had two workshops planned that week, which unfortunately had to be postponed. Although I found this slightly frustrating, I knew it was out of my control. Programming and everything will go back to normal eventually, so for now I will watch the water levels and just go with the break-up flow.

*Wachiye is the Cree word for hello

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