For 12 gruelling years, Anthony Bear has struggled to connect his home on the Muskoday First Nation to nearby power, water, and natural gas lines.
When he ended his rodeo and chuckwagon career, Bear decided he wanted to settle down to be with his family. He left everything he had behind in Alberta to move to Muskoday First Nation, his home reserve.
No houses were available at the time, so Bear approached the band to ask for land suitable for him to settle a trailer. He said he was given a patch of land just down the road from the house he was born, but there were no utility lines running to the property. Power lines are connected to a house within sight of Bear’s property, while water and power lines seemingly end just across the road from his land. Despite numerous promises over the years, Bear said he has been unable to persuade the band's chief and council to provide the utility connections to his home.
“The water line's probably 1,000 yards away across the road that I live on. Same thing with the phone; it runs right there,” Bear said. “The power is no more than a quarter of a mile away, so it’s not like I’m asking them to put it in 20 kilometers away or something.”
He said any time he approaches the band, he’s told funds aren’t available to help his cause. He now feels like his pleas fall on deaf ears.
“I’m tired of getting the excuses they come up with,” Bear said. “Every time a promise is made, it’s broken. It’s kind of hard to feel good about something.”
Calls to Muskoday’s Housing Coordinator and Chief about Bear’s situation were not returned by deadline.
This is Missy.
She hangs out with Anthony Bear, who for the last 12 years, has struggled to connect to running water, power and natural gas services to his home on the Muskoday First Nation...
— Bryan Eneas (@BryanEneas) August 17, 2018
The tale of two trailers
Two trailers now sit on Bear’s property. He’s brought both of them to the land himself over the 12 years he’s resided in Muskoday.
Bear said he's done what he can in order to try and maintain the buildings by picking up materials from Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store when he has some spare cash. He’s also been given a few odds and ends from Muskoday’s housing department. Bear said he no longer inhabits the older of the trailers; a fire in the home some years ago forced him to reconsider his options, although he still does minor repairs to the building.
Through hard work and generosity, Bear said he was able to acquire a newer trailer, although it still requires repairs and labour.
To cope with his situation, Bear requires water deliveries to maintain drinking water and meet his needs around his house. He is currently in the process of winterizing a brand-new water tank and pump he installed, though he doubted it would make it through a harsh Saskatchewan winter.
He also runs a gas-powered generator to bring electricity to the house. In order to pay for his gas needs, which he estimated cost him about $20 a day, he does odd jobs and mechanical work for community members. He also hauls scrap metal and vehicles to help pay for his gas and food.
“It’s hard to come home and you’re full of grease and dirt, and nothing to eat because the money that you make goes to gas,” Bear said.
Despite earning a heavy equipment operator ticket and bringing many years of roadwork experience to the table, he said he’s been unable to find meaningful employment.
Housing stresses affect health, relationships
Bear said his ongoing struggle has taken its toll on his health.
One winter, he said he became sick because he had to stay home as he had nowhere else to go. Bear said he went as long as he could during those months, but his family had to spend a few weeks with him while he regained his strength.
The mental stress of the situation led Bear to frequently ask himself what is wrong with him and what is different about him, he said, and he fails to understand why the band won’t help him more. He said he was reduced to suicidal thoughts two to three years ago, and although he’s no longer in that dark place in his life he still has daily stresses.
The struggle for power, water, and gas has also taken its toll on his relationships. He said his first wife and his two children left him due to their housing situation.
His most recent partner also left four months ago, a decision she made in part due to Bear’s urging and partially because she couldn’t handle the situation anymore according to Bear and a letter she left behind. The two are still together as a couple, he said, but she’s currently living with family on another reserve.
Despite his struggles emotionally, mentally, and physically, Bear said he has maintained a strong connection to his faith.
“Right now I’m doing gospel camp meetings, and getting out there and spreading the word, trying to show people there is a God,” Bear said. “I can talk to my Lord like I talk to you, and I see more results talking to him than I do with my band.”
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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