Canim Lake Band loses Elder due to COVID-19

Community is devastated, Chief Helen Henderson says.

A dream catcher was created at Canim Lake Band over the holidays by Victoria Frank, Colby Henderson and Mattias Godau. (Janice Franks photo - submitted).

The Tsq’escen’emc (Canim Lake Band) is grieving the death of one of its Elders due to COVID-19.

Chief Helen Henderson said the community is devastated by the loss and is surrounding the family with love and support.

“A loss of one Secwepemc is a profound loss to all Secwepemc,” she said in an email. “Our beloved Elder fought hard to the end. This is our first loss due to COVID-19 and this has hit our community pretty hard. She was our Elder, our language speaker, our knowledge keeper. We are deeply saddened by her passing but her loving words bring us comfort.”

Henderson said the Elder was “a true matriarch, protecting all of us right to the end.” She left them with the words: “Be safe, behave, don’t mess around…this is serious and bad.”

”Our Elder wanted everyone to know that ‘this is a terrible disease and appealed to everyone to stay home,’” Henderson said. “COVID-19 has proven that it has no boundaries, it has not discriminated, and it has no social preference. It has taken one of our own, please take this deadly disease seriously, we do not want to lose another.”

Henderson said the Tsq’escen’emc are grateful for the love and support.

The death comes as the band continues to put health precautions in place to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the community. As of Tuesday, there were 59 positive cases in the community, located about 40 kilometres east of 100 Mile House, which has been in lockdown since Jan 8.

One person remains in hospital, while four others were released from both the hospital and community cohort centre in Williams Lake. The Moderna vaccine was rolled out to members on Jan. 14.

“We are still in lockdown and our priority is to keep everyone home and safe. This will give the vaccine two weeks’ time to take effect,” Henderson said in an email to Black Press Media Tuesday. “This means meeting people’s needs at home so they don’t leave their homes. From food security, addictions, medical needs…we are doing quite well. More and more people will be coming out of isolation so we will have more hands on deck in our response.”

About 350 vaccinations were provided to all members and non-members over 18 years old in the community. Henderson said the band advocated for the vaccine, as 75 percent of the community’s population is in isolation and it “was critical for us to advocate for vaccinations to stop this outbreak.”

The Canim Lake Band (CLB) is now developing a contact list for resource information and will reach out to the community as necessary, to coordinate pick-up and drop-off points for supplies.

The CLB noted its core group of community workers are stretched to maximum capacity, but the transmissibility of the virus “greatly complicates bringing any volunteers or workers into the community.”

The band remains in close contact with the District of 100 Mile House and Cariboo Regional District to ensure a coordinated and effective response to the evolving situation in the area.

100 Mile Mayor Mitch Campsall said the district, along with the Cariboo Regional District, the local MLA and Interior Health have all been in close contact with Canim officials from the beginning of the outbreak. Staff, for instance, procured concrete barriers from Dawson Road Maintenance to help with traffic control.

“It’s things like this where we can best assist,” Campsall said. “We’re definitely 100 percent behind them. We’re pretty happy with the way they shut everything down and our heart goes out to Canim.”

Demian Pettman, communications officers with the CLB’s Emergency Operations Centre, said while the numbers of positive cases are still going up, it’s now at a slower rate of increase.

“It’s been nice to see the kind of support that has been coming from the community,” she said.

Henderson offered thanks to the District of 100 Mile, Cariboo Regional District, Canim Lake General Store, Canim Lake Resort, School District 27, RCMP, 100 Mile Free Press and “all other good neighbours for the outpouring of offers to support our community.

“Knowing that our friends and neighbours are with us ‘in thought’ helps in many unspoken ways,” she said. “Thank you.”

100 Mile HouseCariboo Regional District