Too many people are dying from this virus says Stswecem’c Xgat’tem (Canoe Creek Band) Kukpi7 Patrick Harry (Secwepemc Health Caucus image)

Secwepemc leaders: ‘The actions we take now will be the story we tell in the future’

Chiefs speak to members in COVID-19 video

Kindness and respect is being urged by the Secwepemc Nation in a video featuring the Kukukwpi7 (16 chiefs who represent the nation) located in B.C.’s south central region.

The cornerstone of Secwepemc culture can be practiced during the COVID-19 pandemic by staying home, the Secwepemc leadership said in the video launched May 13.

From the Bonaparte First Nation, Cara Basil is serving as the traditional wellness lead as well as the COVID-19 lead for the Secwepemc Health Caucus.

She has been supporting the Nation during the health crisis and said the idea of having a video with all of the leaders was suggested by T’exelc (Williams Lake Indian Band) Kukpi7 (Chief) Willie Sellars.

The purpose of the video, she said, was for Secwepemc leadership to showcase how they have been coming together through COVID-19.

Secwepemc Nation leadership meet weekly via teleconference where they hear of the latest updates from the First Nations Health Authority and Interior Health.

“There’s a lot of advocacy that happens in those calls to make sure our communities are getting everything they need to remain safe and healthy through COVID-19,” Basil said.

“It really has been an incredible way, and from what I see, as Nation building for all of our communities to come together in this way, so the chiefs really wanted to come together and showcase that in a video and put some really strong messaging forward for not only our people but everyone out there to keep doing what we’re doing to keep each other safe and healthy.”

Read More: Visitor checkpoints still active at Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation south of Williams Lake

A state of emergency due to the virus was declared by the Secwepemc Nation on March 23.

Basil said it sends a powerful message to B.C., Canada, and their partners and community to work together making sure their rights and titles are recognized and they are receiving everything they need as a vulnerable population and Indigenous people.

“There was a big concern about the 2017 wildfires where communities were left behind in a lot of the planning and the response and the emergency that was happening and they wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again,” she said. “That we came first, and that we are up front and center and making the decision on behalf of our communities and making sure everything was coming into play how we needed it to specific to our culture, our traditions, and our ways of being.”

There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 for Secwepemc Nation which Basil said would treat any confirmed case as a full community outbreak.

Read More: TNG confirms no transmission of COVID-19 after exposure

“It would trickle out throughout all of our communities even if just one of our Secwepemc people were to test positive and it’s been a really big concern overall for that to happen because of how we know we won’t be able to support the family through that time of grieving through ceremony and things like that we normally would.”

There are no lockdowns currently in place and Basil said they are advocating the province to provide funding for security which is proving costly to maintain.

Read More: B.C. Interior First Nation on 14-day lockdown as precaution against COVID-19

“Many of our communities do have security and checkpoints that they want to remain even though B.C has announced its restart plan they want to keep those measures in place to protect everyone.”

Produced by the Secwepemc Health Caucus in partnership with Splash Media Group the just over-five minute video ends with words from Kukpi7 Mike LeBourdais of Stil’qw/Pelltiq’t (Whispering Pines/Clinton).

“The actions we take now will be the story we tell in the future.”


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rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

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