March 27, 2020 Siksikaitsitapii Territory – The Siksikaitsitapii Blackfoot Confederacy Tribal Council (BCTC) is paying close attention to the current public health crisis related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and taking every possible measure to keep Siksikaitsitapii communities informed, safe and healthy. BCTC Chiefs and health experts are currently advocating for emergency resources and support for the people.
Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs held a teleconference recently with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenny to get an update and to discuss strategies to prevent the virus from spreading into Blackfoot Confederacy Nations. The Siksikaitsitapii Chiefs have also responded to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement of a $305-million Indigenous community support fund the House of Commons passed in a Bill that is part of Canada’s $82 billion COVID-19 economic relief package. Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs are seeking clarification on the Indigenous community support fund and to assert that First Nation’s need more dollars and flexibility to respond effectively to the current health crisis based on population and proximity to COVID-19 ‘hotspots.’
First Nations have historically worked in isolation and are still the most susceptible and vulnerable peoples affected by preventable disease as health gaps remain worlds apart from non-indigenous populations. First Nations in general, face greater risk due to overcrowding, isolation, declining infrastructure, limited internet access and lack of healthcare resources and access. Because of higher rates of chronic illness and lower determinants of health, First Nations expect a much higher mortality rate.
In the March 19th letter, Chiefs addressed the Prime Minister to alert Canada that the current allocation – to be spread out over 645 First Nations across Canada, including the Inuit and Metis’– is not sufficient to address the needs of the Blackfoot people. “Not only are we a large population but we are in close proximity to Calgary, which has the highest number of confirmed cases, and the USA Boarder, where a high number of Covid-19 cases are being detected, places our members at higher risk, meaning more support is needed to keep our members safe and to keep the spread of the virus from coming into our communities.”
Blackfoot Confederacy Nations are also in discussions with appropriate federal and provincial departments to obtain much needed resources. The BCTC, in coordination with the Blackfoot Chiefs is seeking more funds above own source revenues to close the gaps for those Siksikaitsitapii members living off-reserve who are in need of support for purchasing the necessary supplies needed for the prevention of the expanding COVID-19 outbreak. A date will be announced when that assistance becomes available. Blackfoot Confederacy members with high priority such as elders, people with disabilities, people with medical issues, and low-income members residing in Calgary, Lethbridge, and surrounding communities will be the first to receive support.
The priority is the health and well-being of our members and communities in close proximity to highly infected areas, pitting them at a higher risk. We have been monitoring updates from local and national health authorities and have postponed all events and meetings as a precaution. Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs stress that our people must remain vigilant in preventing this virus and to exercise all protocols regarding social distancing, limited travel, and minimizing contact with any crowds or events (including within our own communities).
Siksikaitsitapii communities on-reserve are taking various emergency measures and working with federal and provincial health services. Consult with your respective health departments and websites (links below) for current actions and protocols.
For off-reserve members, we encourage community members to monitor for symptoms. If you are feeling ill have a fever or cough call 811. Or complete the online self-assessment tool on the AHS website which helps to ease the pressure on Health Link 811 phone lines. For up to date information about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) visit Alberta Health Services website: https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx
Blackfoot Confederacy Community Updates:
Blackfoot Confederacy members living off-reserve in Calgary and Lethbridge, check for updates on the BCTC website: http://blackfootconfederacy.ca
As the Blackfoot Confederacy we have a strong history of resiliency and will overcome this crisis together by practicing emergency protocols and our Blackfoot cultural ways of being. We appreciate your patience and support as we collectively respond to the prevention of COVID-19 in our families and communities. deal with this together.