April 8, 2020
As you’re all aware, we are living in unprecedented times. It is unclear how long the threat of the virus will last. Like other Indigenous communities, l am concerned that an outbreak of COVID-19 in any of the Cooperatives, Enterprises or greater community would be debilitating. Many of our families live in poverty or are challenged with mental or physical health barriers. One of my greatest concerns are the health inequities among our high-risk and vulnerable households. It is imperative that we take all precautionary measures seriously. Please stay home. Encourage your families and friends to stay home. Please do not put your fellow members, Elders, vulnerable individuals and children at risk.
It is important that we protect our Elders and vulnerable community members. As Indigenous people, we hold our Elders as our sacred knowledge keepers. In the spirit of wahkôtowin, miyo-wîcehtowin and sihtoskâtowin, some community members are relying on traditional harvesting and medicines to support the vulnerable. Our community members understand the collective power that we have and the role we play in supporting one another by upholding our Indigenous values.
I realize families are very close and care greatly for one another. It’s one of the things I admire most about Aseniwuche families. However, now is not the time to visit or gather. Taking care of your loved ones means social and physical distancing. There are alternative ways to communicate with friends and family until this is all over. Please take these precautions seriously and follow recommended procedures. Health professionals insist that the most effective ways to prevent infection are washing your hands regularly, avoiding touching your face, maintaining a physical distance of two metres from others while outside your household and practicing proper etiquette when sneezing or coughing. I do not think these are great things to ask of people to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Be accountable for your actions and to every person in our communities. Heed the advice of health professionals and take responsibility for your part in flattening the curve.
Government has spoken about providing support to Indigenous communities in their preparations for and actions to limit the spread of COVID-19. While it’s disappointing to feel a lack of support from certain levels of government, Alberta Health Services and the Federal Government have provided opportunities for assistance. We have also leaned on our industry partners who were some of the first to offer support. While we have yet to receive federal funding, AWN has been working on an emergency community plan since March 23, 2020. We don’t know how much funding will be provided but we have taken the preliminary steps identifying what basic needs are required to sustain the health and safety of our members. We are trying our very best to be proactive as we navigate a new environment with many unknowns. Our staff are working hard to expedite relief projects on our end despite being challenged by complicated bureaucracies. Our goal is to get essential resources out to the communities smoothly and in a timely manner. The safety of members and their families is our greatest priority. For those who have access to the Internet, please stay up to date by following the Alberta Health website and the AWN Facebook page. Any members with questions, concerns or feedback are welcome to call our office at 780-827-5510. Thank you for your continued support and patience.
President, Aseniwuche Winewak Nation