While Northern B.C. was spared in the first wave of COVID, it has been hit by the second wave with daily cases on the rise. Cheslatta Carrier Nation’s Chief Corrina Leween spoke with Lakes District News on her thoughts around COVID and how the First Nation community has been dealing with the pandemic.
“Well, it is understandably scary and kind of difficult right now because we are trying to implement the COVID restrictions for our community members and having people abide by those regulations has been tough. Our people are social people so it is really hard because families usually gather, eat together or even when we have a band meeting, we all eat together and everybody in the same room. I think that is the part that I am finding a bit difficult to deal with myself,” said Leween, adding that in general while most people understood the regulations there still have been some who are not really understanding the severity.
“I am myself social distancing hoping to maybe set an example,” she said.
Since the start of the pandemic, Cheslatta Carrier Nation adapted to the changing needs of the time and moved several of its contests and events online. The First Nation came up with the novel idea to provide its members with greenhouses and gift cards for Honeysuckle Garden Centre, in partnership with Rio Tinto. They even held a yard beautification contest where members’ yards were judged through the photos they sent in. Events like this was all in hopes of keeping people at home.
“Most events are being done via Zoom but connectivity is an issue here and so it is difficult. Usually this time of the year we do our winter fest but we just can’t do that anymore,” said Leween.
This summer, several members from Cheslatta Carrier Nation dried and canned fish and gave it to their elders during Christmas in their hampers. They also modified their usual work bee for their fish and instead had different work stations set up with social distancing.
“It was all outdoors, with everyone social distancing. So we tried to do stuff that we always did but do it in a different atmosphere. We had to adapt but we did and it worked out good,” she said.
She also talked about several other contests that the community organized around Halloween and Christmas.
“We had the Halloween contest that got people decorating the outside of their homes, getting them to put up signs in their windows and we also had a Christmas contest for decorations and snowman making. We also had a photo contest. We had our elders judged all those contests. It was a success story for COVID,” she said.
Cheslatta Carrier Nation has also been collaborating with several companies with whom they work; for example, Rio Tinto on the greenhouse project.
“Ever since COVID first was a reality in our community, we have reached out to some of the companies that we deal with and the government. We put out hampers, sanitization kits, school supplies, laptops, computers and while we did a lot of that with donations from the companies that we deal with and also the government, majority of it comes from our own source revenue,” she said.
The Indigenous Services Canada have provided funding for First Nations and there is provincial funding with regards to employment insurance, funding for students.
“There are a lot of funding options out there but they are not nearly enough. Yes, it is helpful, not to mistake that for not being grateful but it is not nearly enough with what we are dealing with right now,” said Leween.
Leween also constantly kept emphasizing on the need to socially distance calling it unfortunate, but necessary.
“The message I really want to push is to socially distance and stay home. It is a new era where we can’t go into Prince George and shop, visit, go on vacations, we need to wait it out just a little bit longer. Stay positive, hang in there, try to do outdoor activities, and stay within your family group and rely on them for support,” she said.