A Look Back at One Year with COVID-19

March 11, 2021

One year ago today, the province of Manitoba confirmed its first presumptive case of COVID-19. Throughout 2020’s many challenges and hardships, SCO has continued to support and advocate for its 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota First Nations, including support for off reserve members.

By having to adjust to a “new normal”, with physical distancing, global lockdowns, cancelled gatherings, and everything else that came with it, if there is one thing that COVID-19 has shown us, it’s that no matter what, our people are resilient and will always find a way to help each other!

Today we highlight some of our communities for the amazing work they have done in the fight against COVID-19.

Lake Manitoba First Nation

From the moment they got word of COVID-19’s arrival, Lake Manitoba First Nation Chief Cornell Mclean and his council took action!

From delivering freezers filled with meat packs for every Elder… to an awareness campaign on vaccine safety, Lake Manitoba experienced complete community buy-in when it comes to its pandemic response.

As of January 21, EVERY ELIGIBLE ELDER received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine! From youth to health centre staff, everyone at Lake Manitoba should be justifiably proud of their efforts.

Brokenhead Ojibway Nation

Keeping COVID-19 in check for Brokenhead Ojibway Nation has been no easy feat.

Highway 59 cuts right through the heart of this First Nation’s territory, bringing with it thousands of people to the beaches and cottage country on Lake Winnipeg’s east shore.

Picture above are Jazmyn-Rae Desjarlais, the Community Health Transformation Liaison; Chief Deborah Smith; and Senior Community Champion Karen Prince.  Brokenhead Ojibway Nation is fulled with great female leadership!Under the guidance of Health Director Aleisha Desjarlais, and thanks to the tireless efforts of her staff and other community members, BON has reported ZERO DEATHS due to COVID-19. The community is even welcoming visitors to their businesses with safety precautions in place. Another remarkable achievement for a First Nation… against formidable odds!

Pinaymootang First Nation

Pinaymootang First Nation Chief Garnet Woodhouse and his council have had the difficult task of containing the COVID-19 pandemic while being located at the gateway between southern and northern Manitoba.

Every day the community sees a great deal of traffic flowing in and out of its traditional territory. Despite that obstacle, Chief Woodhouse says there was immediate community buy-in when it came to a full COVID-19 response.

From his council members, to the Pinaymootang Health Centre staff, and to local church leadership, Chief Woodhouse says everyone has banded together to keep the virus at bay. Recent reports reveal that all eligible Elders have received both doses of the Moderna vaccine.

With the loosening of some public health orders, Chief Garnet Woodhouse says he and his community members were heartened by the prospect of being able to FINALLY get together on Family Day Weekend.

We are proud of you, Pinaymootang, and you should be justifiably proud of your efforts!

Little Saskatchewan First Nation

Meanwhile, Chief Darrell Shorting and his Council at Little Saskatchewan First Nation had to incorporate what they called a “hard ten.”

When it was learned there were active COVID-19 cases in the community, leadership implemented a ban on anyone coming in and anyone going out of Little Saskatchewan. It was not an easy choice to make or enforce. However, it proved to be effective and the community was able to bring its active cases back to single digits.

Little Saskatchewan’s leadership also took the step of ensuring every household had a freezer along with hampers and meat packs to ensure everyone was able to stay safely at home.

Peguis First Nation

When Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister tried to blame Chief Hudson and Indigenous leaders for a rise in case numbers seen in First Nations in Manitoba earlier this year, Peguis First Nation Chief Hudson wasn’t having any of it! Chief Hudson turned dangerous and disparaging comments into a positive.

Instead, he gave thoughtful, experienced advice to the premier on how to effectively curb the spread of COVID-19:

“You can maintain control when you do contact tracing and monitor cases and monitor individuals coming and going,” said Chief Hudson. “When you implement checkpoints and curfews you can keep your numbers very low.”

In addition to setting up their own COVID-19 testing site run by community members, Peguis was one of the first communities to receive the first batch of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and got to work immediately.

“Now we don’t need to… wait for a testing site to come in to help us. Now we have the skill, the manpower, the training to be able to do that for our community members,” said Denise Bear, the nurse in charge of the Peguis Health Centre.

This testing capacity was a priority for Chief Glenn Hudson. “By training our own frontline nurses, health and safety workers to run tests in our facility, collecting these samples… we will gain obviously a valuable ground in fighting this pandemic,” said Chief Hudson.

Peguis was also one of the first to lock down their borders and incorporate check stops for those coming in and out of the community.

We are proud of all the hard work that has been going on Peguis!