Information about Split Lake

=== by Bob Sutherland ===

This page lists some introductory information about the First Nation community of Split Lake, Manitoba, Canada. The information is based on my observations when I taught in the community for a year during the late 1990's.

Planet: Earth

Continent: North America

Country: Canada

Province: Manitoba

Community: Split Lake

Canadian National Topographic System (NTS) map sheet numbers: 64 A/1 and 64 A/8 (which computers often list as 064A01 and 064A08)

First Nation band: Split Lake Cree First Nation. An alternative name is Tataskweyak Cree Nation.

School: Chief Sam Cook Mahmuwee Education Centre. Probably built in the 1990's it was a new, modern school building for all the education grades. Classes included Nursury (four year olds), Kindergarten (five year olds), grades one to twelve, and the occasional short term adult course for a community college or university program.

School Board: Tataskweyak Education Authority. A local First Nations school board for their community.

Lake: Split Lake is the name of a lake on the Nelson River system that flows into Hudson Bay. The community of Split Lake is on a peninsula that extends out into the lake. Hidden from view somewhere along the far shore of the lake is a smaller First Nation community known as York Landing.

Road Transportation: The community of Split Lake is approximately half way between Thompson, Manitoba and Gillam, Manitoba along provincial dirt highway 280. When you reach the turn off intersection the community is hidden in the forest a distance of about 5 kilometres from the highway.

Under ideal weather conditions it was a two hour drive from Split Lake to either Thompson or Gillam for experienced drivers who knew the road and its hazards.

Ferry Transportation: The M. V. Joe Keeper Ferry sailed from the community of Split Lake to York Landing and back to Split Lake three times per week according to the sign posted at the dock. The ferry could only sail during the summer and early fall months when there was no lake ice blocking its route. I never actually saw the ferry being used because its sailing times were during the school day when I was busy teaching in my classroom.

Winter Road: Every year a winter road was built across the frozen lake during the winter months to connect the communities of Split Lake and York Landing. A good portion of the route was a bulldozed trail through the forest. The forest portion of the route was covered by deep snow that had been packed down hard to form an ice road to support the weight of the vehicles that would drive over it. There were some tree stumps, fallen trees, rocks and other objects buried beneath the ice along the forest portion of the route. The lake portion of the route had to be kept clear of snow to allow a thick layer of ice to form on the lake surface along the route to support the weight of the vehicles that would drive across the lake ice.

If the weather cooperated and attempts to build the winter road were successful then cars, pickup trucks and big commercial transport trucks might be able to use the winter road that year. Construction of the winter road usually started in January after there was a thick layer of ice on the lake and deep snow in the forest. Thw winter road was expected to be open and usable for just a few weeks in February and early March before it started to melt.

Drinking Water: I was living across the road from the school in a duplex house that had been built specifically for use as a teacherage. Both buildings were relatively new in a new section of the community. Both buildings were connected to the community water and sewage systems by underground pipes.

Years before my arrival Manitoba Hydro built a few hydro electric power dams that caused flooding in the Split Lake area. The formerly clear, fast flowing water in Split Lake become a stagnant settling pond full of suspended silt and sediment.

The community water filtration system was unable to purify the water for safe drinking because of the suspended sediment. Boil water advisories were frequently being announced by the local health authority through the nursing station. The boil water advisories often lasted for weeks at a time especially whenever there was any wet weather such as rain storms or melting ice and snow.

I tried buying some Brita jugs with water filters. I tried buying a Pur water filter that screwed onto the spout of my kitchen tap. Both types of filters were rated as having a useful life expectancy of a few months in a family home. Living alone in Split Lake sometimes the filters only lasted a day or two before they became so clogged with fine silt and sediment that water could no longer flow through them.

I tried buying large coffee filters to remove the silt and the sediment from the water coming out of my kitchen tap. I boiled a lot of water for use when cooking, washing dishes and brushing my teeth. Unable to drink the local water everyone living in the community was buying many cases of pop, fruit juices and bottled water to drink.

Photographs: My photographs were taken with 35 mm film cameras during the school year that I lived and taught in Split Lake. Years later I scanned the film negatives into my computer to create these digital versions of my photographs.

Most of my photographs were taken during one weekend about the beginning of October. A few days earlier we had our first big snow storm of the school year. The last of the snow was melting and the ground is wet in my photographs. Ice is forming on the lake surface.

In February I took some winter photographs of the snowy scenery through the windows of my parked truck.

I have not visited the community since I took these photographs so most of my comments are based on what I observed that year in the late 1990's while I was living and teaching in Split Lake.