Gendron, who lived on Ile Boddam in Salomon Atoll, along with her mother, father, and older sister, says she was among the last of the residents to leave in 1973. "Some of the people didn't believe it was happening. They didn't even pack." The people were forced onto boats and taken hundreds of miles to either the Seychelles or Mauritius where they were deserted on the docks. "Some families got separated," Gendron recalls. And they stayed separated because they were too poor to afford the fare for the 1,000 mile passage between the Seychelles and Mauritius.
It was important 'to maintain the fiction that the inhabitants of Chagos are not a permanent or semi-permanent population.'
But then a U.N. tribunal raised questions over the U.K.'s claim to sovereignty in the region and the resettlement study commissioned in January 2015 was released. Gendron's role as chair was suddenly much more complex. It was up to her and the rest of the Chagossian committee to explain the resettlement study to the Chagossian community as a whole and solicit their opinions by the end of October 2015. According to committee member Pierre Prosper, this is new territory for them, "All the decisions about us have been made for us," he says. "We've never been asked what we want."
Oceanography gave her the best chance to combine her love of the sea with a future in Chagos.