Like most communities in Saskatchewan, First Nations in the province have had to find ways to navigate issues surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Cameron joined Global News reporter Roberta Bell to look back at 2020 and discuss what to expect moving forward.
The following are his answers in a Q&A format.
Q: Leaders have been navigating the coronavirus pandemic on and off reserves. What’s been learned along the way?
A: It has made us all become more aware and cautious of our surroundings. It has made us more vigilant in terms of keeping our hands clean and even the air we breathe.
Q: There have been more than 2,000 cases on reserves across the province, but how is off-reserve membership being impacted?
A: With our urban, our off-reserve band members, they’re kind of at a loss because they don’t know where to turn for help or who’s going to look after their needs. Everyone is chipping in and doing their part to assist urban members. What we did at the FSIN was provide eight semi-truck loads (of food) right off the bat back in March and we delivered it to the major centres. It couldn’t feed everybody, but at least it helped.
Q: There’s some hope with a vaccine here and we’ve heard leaders call for vaccine priority. Why is having that so important?
A: It’s absolutely crucial in the sense that these are guaranteed to us when our chiefs of the day signed what we called our inherent and treaty rights, that medicine chest because of that treaty right to health. Our First Nations are vulnerable and it is challenging, as it was before COVID-19, for First Nations to get medical services and prescriptions of all sorts.
Q: Through all of this, many communities are continuing to navigate another crisis that’s been going on for years now, which is the suicide crisis. Where are they finding strength in these difficult times?
A: The power of prayer is powerful. It gives us hope, it gives us optimism and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Q: It’s been a tough year in a lot of ways, but can you talk about some of the wins in 2020?
A: Well, despite the challenges we’ve been facing with COVID-19, we’ve also seen some positive news where many of our First Nation communities are taking our children and youth back to the land. We have a term in Cree and it’s called “askiy poko ē-wīcīhitowak” and what that means is our land alone will help us. It’s a very critical teaching for many First Nations people across this country and across this world, for that matter.
Q: What message do you have for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike about the importance of continuing with the relationship building that’s happened this year?
A: Our children are watching and they’re listening and they’re learning. If they see us working together and communicating and trying to improve everybody’s lives, then it gives them the incentive that no matter what skin colour we are or how we were raised or where we were raised, we all have the obligation to show the word respect.
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