12/23/2011 08:41 EST | Updated 02/22/2012 05:12 EST

Lonely Christmas In Winnipeg For Native Evacuees


First Nations residents who were forced from their homes in Lake St. Martin by floods will spend a lonely Christmas in Winnipeg hotel rooms.

Living in a hotel has been no fun, Joseph Traverse and Doreen Swan told CBC News as they watched their six-month-old daughter Anastasia play in their room, cluttered with a high chair, crib, toys and diaper boxes.

"It's just not really a home where she can grow up," Swan said, adding it's the fourth room the little girl has known since she was born in May, just weeks after thousands of First Nations residents were forced from their reserve because of flooding.

The Lake St. Martin reserve has been plagued by flooding for decades, and after the latest round Manitoba Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson said a new location would have to found for the community.

That means about 700 of its residents are stuck in Winnipeg hotels for the holidays and likely for months to come.

The Manitoba Native Firefighters Association are has put out a call for toys to bring a bit of Christmas cheer to the homesick families.

"It's important to make them feel at home," drive co-ordinator Angel Compton said. "A lot of their things have been left behind, so we're just trying to fill the gaps of what they currently don't have and let the kids have a little fun over the holidays."

Chief Adrian Sinclair and band councillors put on a Christmas dinner at a Winnipeg community centre for the dislocated residents, but Traverse said it's hard to feel Christmas cheer.

"Everybody's homesick, everybody wants to go home, because we spent our Christmases in Lake St. Martin, not in the city," he said.

Still, Traverse is doing his best to make sure his little daughter enjoys her first Christmas: Room has been found in their cluttered quarters for Santa to leave presents for Anastasia.

"This is it right here," he said, pointing to a tiny Christmas tree. "We have to make the best of it for her."