Eagle statue ruffles First Nation feathers
A $175,000 eagle statue has some people from a Manitoba First Nation questioning the spending decisions of their council.
The statue is on the Yellowquill Trail, just north of the Trans-Canada Hwy, and can be seen for several kilometres as it stands high atop a replica of a dead coniferous tree.
The land is part of the Long Plain First Nation's urban reserve in Portage la Prairie.
Long Plain Chief Dennis Meeches said the statue is a tribute to residential school survivors.
"Drive by a lot of communities and they have their geese or mosquito or turtle -- we have the eagle here," he explained to CTV's Stacey Ashley. "Our message basically is that through the eagle and through the creator people have been able to survive ."
The eagle was created by Manitoba artist Jake Goertzen. It weighs 2,000 lbs, and stands 26 metres high.
Some people who live on the reserve said they were left out of the decision to purchase the statue -- and feel the money could have been better spent.
"The focus should be on the youth [and] the elders in the community [who are] not in town," said Selena Lesko. "[Not] for a materialistic object that is going to cost and arm and a leg."
Jessica West told CTV News she doesn't like the way the statue looks.
"If I was Chief, I'd probably spend it on another building of some kind," she said. "I wouldn't spend it on that, especially if it looks like that."
Statue funded by gas bar, VLT's
Chief Dennis Meeches explained that profits from the local gas bar and VLT lounge paid for the statue, and he said he believes it's worth every penny.
"I don't think it was ever about the cost. I know it's very expensive. [But] come to Long Plain and look at our housing and our roads and our economic development and you'll see its got really good infrastructure, really good housing, good economic development. We have an open and transparent government."
The Long Plain First Nation is changing the face of aboriginal self governance in the province.
More than a year ago, it began construction of a 39-home subdivision, located on its urban reservation on the edge of Portage la Prairie -- the first of its kind in Manitoba. Long Plain members are allowed to lease the lots and build homes.
According to the latest numbers more than 1,700 members live on-reserve and almost 1,800 members live off the reserve.
Chief Meeches wants to build a $250,000 garden on the site where the eagle currently sits, and is hoping governments will help fund it.
With a story from CTV's Stacey Ashley.