The Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG) has declared a state of emergency in response to the escalating threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on behalf of the six Tŝilhqot’in communities: Tl’etinqox, Tl’esqox, Yuneŝit’in, Tŝideldel, Xeni Gwet’in and ʔEsdilagh.
Declaring a state of emergency is an exercise of the TNG’s inherent jurisdiction and authority to protect the health and safety of elders, citizens and communities as a paramount responsibility, Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse said.
“We are taking the virus very seriously – many times in our history we have faced such threats. We know what our people need and how to support them,” Alphonse said. “We face real challenges as Indigenous peoples because our communities are remote, our people live in overcrowded homes, many of our members are elderly or have respiratory issues or compromised immune systems – that is the legacy of colonization.”
Access is closed to all visitors except caregivers, medical and emergency personnel and essential services.
“Limiting visitors is the best way to protect our people from the virus, Alphonse said adding they are calling on government to increase emergency funding to Indigenous communities so they have the resources they need to address the threat. I can tell you right now, the $305 million announced for Indigenous, Inuit and Metis people across Canada is not nearly enough.”
The state of emergency is effective immediately and will remain in effect until further notice.
Access to all Tŝilhqot’in communities is closed to visitors as a precaution to protect elders and members, except for access by caregivers, medical and emergency personnel and essential services.
Each community may have its own specific restrictions and exemptions that should be confirmed by visitors before accessing the community for any purpose.
To date, the Tŝilhqot’in Nation has had no confirmed cases in any of the six communities. However, the Tŝilhqot’in Nation supports the recommendations and orders by the government and the public health authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Alphonse said he knows the Tsilhqot’in people are resilient and strong and will get through this.
“We will bunker down, stay home, stop any meetings or gatherings, make sure we maintain two-arms lengths distance from each other if we do need to go out. We have to do this to save the lives of our elders, of our loved ones. Or even better, camp out safely on our territory, I guarantee the land will look after you, you will be grounded and connected. This is a State of Emergency but it will make us stronger as Tŝilhqot’in, it will connect us even more deeply with who we are, our connections to each other, and what we truly value in life.”
The Tŝilhqot’in Nation calls on its citizens and communities to protect elders and loved ones by staying home or safely on the land unless it is absolutely necessary or essential to leave home.
The state of emergency declaration calls on the Federal and Provincial Governments, local governments, health authorities and all other involved parties to provide immediate, effective, coordinated, culturally appropriate and Indigenous-led support to the Tŝilhqot’in Nation, Tŝilhqot’in communities and all Indigenous peoples, consistent with the principles of self-determination, Alphonse said.
The Tŝilhqot’in Nation remains confident that its citizens and communities will persevere in this state of emergency, and it is heartening to see Tŝilhqot’in drawing on traditions, songs, language and medicine to keep the Nation strong during this outbreak, he added.