George Gordon First Nation man wins lifetime achievement award

Robert (Bob) Pratt wins the Saskatchewan First Nations Water Association lifetime achievement award for his work and dedication as his community's water operator. Photo credit: Janna Pratt

Robert (Bob) Pratt is referred to as a sensei as he retains an extensive wealth of knowledge regarding water.

“He’s a very knowledgeable man,” said Richard Akan, a member of the Saskatchewan First Nations Water Association (SFNWA).

“When we’ve got problems, we just give him a call and he can figure it out for us … he’s really reliable and he’s (at work) just about every day.”

Click to play video: 'First Nations workers in Saskatchewan sacrifice wages, vacation to run underfunded water systems'
First Nations workers in Saskatchewan sacrifice wages, vacation to run underfunded water systems

For over 35 years, Pratt has worked as the water operator for the George Gordon First Nation (GGFN). He first worked in the boiler room at the Gordon’s Indian Residential School and worked with a small plant that supplied water to the residents.

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Over the years, Pratt took training to further his knowledge of running a water plant.

With devotion for his community, Pratt introduced the Sapphire Integrated Biological Reverse Osmosis Membrane (SIBROM) water treatment which he says is “the way to go.”

“Every First Nation in the south has no actual long-term supply of water,” he said. “Reserves were pushed back to where the land was no good for anything. There was no water, just bushes and sloughs. But we have deep wells now.”

Pratt and his team met with Dr. Hans Peterson, a man who was known to provide water treatment solutions to communities with the poorest quality raw water source. Since 2004, the GGFN runs good quality water to over 250 households without the use of water cisterns where water is usually hauled by trucks.

Pratt said it is not an 8-to-5 job as everyone depends on water daily and the work is an everyday commitment. But he wishes there was more proper funding for water operators on First Nation communities.

“All First Nations have the same problem, it’s the lack of proper funding,” said Pratt. “The operators are there because they’re dedicated to their communities. It’s not for the money they pay you. First Nations are the lowest paid operators in Saskatchewan.”

The will to ensure his community had clean water straight to their taps has been Pratt’s goal. With that dedication, others have taken notice including a fellow colleague who nominated him for a SFNWA lifetime achievement award.

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“In my mind, I thought (he) was a good fit … to give to Bob because he’s been in this business for so long,” said Akan. “He’s really deserving of it.”

Pratt has been a water systems operator since 1988 and plans to retire after GGFN receives their new water plant.

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