Walter and Beatrice Neadzo noticed a change in the atmosphere during this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.
For years, the Neadzo family has hosted extended family at their home in Behchokǫ̀, N.W.T. But since that home burned down in the wildfire that hit Behchokǫ̀ this July, the family of six has been staying in a two-bedroom trailer in Edzo provided by the nearby Tlicho Nation.
This year marked the first time they celebrated the holiday at a different relative’s residence.
“I am experiencing a significant change this year. However, I am making an effort to embrace our current situation and our living environment,” expressed Beatrice Neadzo. “The most important thing is that we have a roof over our heads and that we are all together.”
They’re not the only people in the territory facing this situation. Wildfires in the N.W.T. destroyed homes in four different communities this summer, and many people are still without new permanent living situations. In Behchokǫ̀, the Neadzo’s home was one of four properties lost to wildfire.
Walter and Beatrice personally constructed their residence in Behchokǫ̀. Although it required four years of diligent effort, they were constantly filled with pride in their achievement. They resided there for 15 years alongside their four children until it tragically caught fire earlier this summer.
During the winter season, they gained recognition within their community for having the most outstanding Christmas light display in the town. Walter, along with his four daughters, would commence the process of setting up the lights as early as October. By the time December arrived, Beatrice exclaimed that their house resembled a delightful candy cane.
Their house served as a central gathering place for their extended families, where they would come together and celebrate. They would often spend Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving at their home, with relatives assisting in the preparation and tidying up.
Walter expressed that there were numerous fond memories in that house.
Moving from their previous family residence to the trailer has proven to be particularly challenging for their children, all of whom had never experienced living elsewhere.
During the evacuation, each member of the family was limited to carrying only one bag containing their belongings.
Walter’s grandfather, who passed away in the early 1970s, owned a vintage accordion that they misplaced. Beatrice also lost her personally crafted wedding gown, which she had intended to hand down to her daughters.
Walter expressed that it seemed as though our previous existence had been completely wiped out, as everything was destroyed by fire.
The assistance from the community makes things easier.
The family in Behchokǫ̀ has received valuable support from their community, which has been fundraising for them ever since they lost their home.
The Tlicho government not only provided them with a trailer, but also placed orders at local stores to help them replace some of the important items they lost in the fire.
Neadzo expressed that it simplifies everything to some extent.
Currently, the family is in the midst of completing the necessary steps to submit an insurance claim for their residence. Meanwhile, they are making the most out of their time together in the trailer. Walter is optimistic that they will receive compensation from their insurance provider by December.
When they commence construction on a new residence, they are deliberating between the option of purchasing a mobile home for a faster relocation or starting afresh.
Walter expressed his desire to avoid dwelling on the past and emphasized the importance of focusing on the future. He mentioned that he imparts this perspective to his children as well.
“I will simply appreciate the fact that we will all be together. That is the most significant aspect.”