The Sociocultural Implications of Emergency Evacuation among Members of the Hatchet Lake First Nation
Almost every year, Aboriginal communities are evacuated from northern regions of Canada to nearby cities because of threats due to forest fires and flooding. In this thesis, I present the perspectives of twenty members of the Hatchet Lake First Nation, who were evacuated from Wollaston Lake in northern Saskatchewan during the summer of 2011. My main research question is, how do residents of Wollaston Lake describe experiences of disruptions to well-being and distress during the evacuation and in the evacuation centers? My methods are qualitative, as I conducted open-ended interviews and participant observation while residing in the community for six weeks during the summer of 2012. Following the approaches of Geertz (2000), Garro (2000), and Mattingly (1998), I engaged in a narrative analysis of these data. Three main themes are evident in community members’ discussions of their experiences. First, participants focus on the ways that the fire and displacement disrupted the well-being of fellow community members and, to a lesser degree, their relationships with the land surrounding their town, and their roles within the community. Residents of Wollaston Lake portray a version of well-being that is rooted in the social, rather than individual, self. The second theme relates to family roles, as mothers, fathers, adult children, and guardians describe the various ways that these roles were disrupted during the fire and evacuation, and the distress elicited by these disruptions. These narratives are indicative of the discrepancies between the circumstances experienced during the fire and evacuation, and the values and behaviors that they associate with family roles. The third theme relates to expectations and blame, as community members recall the various ways that the evacuation failed to meet their expectations, and they attribute blame to those that they deem responsible for these inadequacies. Specifically, community members focus on expectations relating to the handling of the threat of fire, the organization of the evacuation, and their interactions with members of the host communities. These findings indicate the incongruities between current emergency management practices in Saskatchewan and the needs of this community. The implication of these findings is that, in order to minimize distress during future disasters, organizers must develop plans that account for the distinct social norms and vulnerabilities of the communities with which they work.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
DepartmentArchaeology and Anthropology
SupervisorWaldram, James B.
CommitteeDowne, Pamela J.; Hackett, Paul; Westman, Clinton N.
Copyright DateJanuary 2014