On March 19, Chief April Martel of K’atlodeeche First Nation stands at one of two checkpoints erected that day to keep everyone except band members and essential services personnel off the Hay River Reserve because of concerns about COVID-19.
NNSL file photo

Chief April Martel of K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) believes checkpoints set up at the entrances to the Hay River Reserve are serving their purpose of helping to protect it from the COVID-19 pandemic.

One goal of the checkpoints is to keep everyone off the reserve, except for KFN members and essential services personnel.

“That seems to be going very well,” Martel said March 26. “Basically, we still have the road blockade up at both entrances.”

Another goal is to preserve the food supply at KFN’s Ehdah Cho Store, and Martel said that is working.

“The food supply is still coming in,” she said, although there are some shortages of things like meat and flour.

KFN has been watching the quantities at the store, she noted. “When the members shop at Ehdah Cho Store, they’re only limiting one per item, some things are two. But other than that, Ehdah Cho Store is fine.”

There is meat at the store, Martel added. “But not as much as we usually get.”

As a result, some band members have gone out on the land to hunt for caribou and moose, and fishermen have also gone out to supplement the food supply.

Martel noted that KFN has also expanded the number of days for its soup kitchen at the Chief Lamalice Complex, partly because the Hay River Soup Kitchen has been closed because of concerns about COVID-19.

KFN’s soup kitchen used to operate only on Wednesday, but now operates on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“So you can come pick up your food, but for the elders they’re delivering to all the elders,” Martel said.

The chief noted that social distancing and other safety precautions are in force at the soup kitchen.

“You just come to the door and they just hand you your food,” she explained. “So they’re all gloved up.”

The KFN band offices have been closed and most employees are working from home.

However, Martel, chief executive officer Debbie Miller and a couple of employees in the finance department are still at the offices working on funding proposals for various projects.

The chief noted that reserve residents are following social distancing and staying at home, except for being outside if necessary.

However, she noted some reserve residents are still travelling to Hay River.

“People are social distancing, but some of our members are still going to town and doing their thing like shopping or whatever else,” she said. “I can’t stop them, you know. It’s what they want to do. We’re just preventing people from coming to the reserve and overshopping our reserve and our quantity.”

Essential services are also being maintained on the reserve.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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