Roadblocks, the "new-norm" in First Nation communities
- Jeanelle Mandes. | March 30, 2020
Many Indigenous communities are preparing and taking necessary precautions to protect their people from the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Pelican Lake First Nation, Cumberland House First Nation, Big River First Nation, Pasqua First Nation and Carry The Kettle Nakoda Nation among many others have set up road blocks in each entrance of their communities to heavily monitor who is leaving or entering the reserve. This initiative is to help promote their band members to stay home and practice social distancing.
Chief Brady O’Watch of Carry The Kettle Nakoda Nation said if he could contain and protect his First Nation, he will. And that’s what he is currently doing. He said the community entrances have 24/7 patrolled security to prevent the virus from entering.
“[We are tracking] who is leaving, why they were leaving, the purpose of it and making people aware of what’s going on out there,” he said. “It wasn’t something done overnight. I went out and talked with Elders and membership. I noticed some of the other [First Nations] doing the same so I felt it was necessary for me to contain and protect my nation.”
O’Watch said their community convenience store is always stocked up with food and supplies to help prevent members from leaving the reserve to buy items needed in the nearby towns or cities.
“We’re allowing members to leave in twos. We’re telling people to avoid travelling at all costs. That’s why we have a store on our First Nation. We try to keep our store stocked at a price that is cheaper than grocery stores.”
There will be a designated person from each family who will leave the community to get medical and pharmacy supplies.
O’Watch added the transmission of the COVID-19 is slowly escalating, he will possibly be closing the borders to anyone within the next week or so. A curfew of 8pm for all band members will be implemented to ensure that no one is driving around and to keep everyone at home. He will be introducing the colour-coding – a system that has been adopted by many Indigenous communities including Cowessess First Nation.
“We have implemented a colour card system. We have 237 homes [on-reserve] and we delivered to each home a package of cleaning supplies, the colour card system, information on cleanliness on hygiene and self-isolation. These colour card systems must be hanged on the doors or visible to the peacekeeper…who are constantly driving around and making sure that people are safe.”
White is for ‘I’m okay’, orange means ‘I have a utility problem, blue means ‘I need water’, yellow means ‘I require food’, red means ‘there is a person in the home that is sick’, purple means ‘single parent with children/I need help’, and green means ‘death’.
Cowessess First Nation has stored food away for their band members who require some when their personal supplies are dwindling. This measure is to help prevent the band membership from leaving the reserve during this time of crisis.
“Cowessess First Nation is working well with the provincial and federal government, FSIN and local surrounding areas, everyone seems to be united,” he said. “We’re all in this together and we’re all going to recover together. Right now, the unity is really strong.”