Locally operated radio has long played a crucial role in keeping Fort Good Hope residents informed. During Covid-19, the medium has become even more important — and physical distancing directives are sinking in with community members, says Chief Daniel Masuzumi.
The community’s long-running radio station, operated by the K’asho Got’ine government, has been keeping residents in the Sahtu community of some 500 people up to speed with Covid-19 developments in recent weeks.
Masuzumi said he’s been joining community radio host Tommy Kakfwi, alongside Fort Good Hope’s head nurse, to provide regular updates — the current number of cases in the territory, and around the world, along with the most up-to-date orders from the GNWT.
“After we say what we have to say with our information updates, we then take questions from the community, whatever they may be and then we provide them with answers,” Masuzumi told NNSL Media.
Lucy Jackson provides English-to-North Slavey interpretation during the radio updates, said Masuzumi.
“We’re just trying to educate community members through our local radio by telling them to respect the guidelines from the health officer; (we) just keep reporting it over and over until (residents) get the message and understand,” he continued.
“We’re trying to bring comfort to the community in a way, telling (residents) to take this more seriously.”
So far, Masuzumi said the messaging seems to be working; he’s seeing more people adhering to health safety orders.
On April 10, following the advice of Dr. Kami Kandola, the NWT’s chief medical officer, the territory moved to ban all social gatherings, from house parties to funerals due to Covid-19.
Those recent orders, conveyed to community members over the airwaves, are being taken seriously, said Masuzumi.
“It’s finally sinking in,” he added.
Concern about residents’ willingness to heed physical distancing directives was voiced by the Fort Good Hope SAO Kimberley Young, who worried about Covid-19 and its potential impact on a small health centre ill-suited to confront an outbreak.
With funerals ruled out, community grapples with how to say goodbye to Elder
While radio-communicated messaging about the risks of the novel coronavirus may be getting through to community members, the fallout from restrictions hasn’t been easy, said Masuzumi.
An Elder, whose name is being withheld until family members are informed, recently died. But with funerals now out of the question, residents are grappling with how to say goodbye to the Elder.
Family and loved ones of the deceased who reside outside the community aren’t able to come and pay their respects, said Masuzumi.
“It’s hitting people pretty hard,” he said.
“Once this passes over, loved ones can have some kind of a memorial one day when this is over with,” continued Masuzumi.
Asked whether he thinks communities ought to know if a case of Covid-19 has reached them — a hot-button point of contention that’s flared up due to the territory’s protocol not to inform small communities — Masuzumi said he’d like to be told by officials if a case was confirmed, but, at the same time, stressed his respect for peoples’ health privacy.
Bootleggers and checkstops
While some communities have set up checkstops in an effort to combat the spread of Covid-19, Masuzumi said there have been no serious talks about doing the same in the isolated Sahtu community. Instead, he said he’s keeping a close eye on who is coming and going, while discussions are underway to further monitor the winter access road to keep bootleggers at bay.
Fort Good Hope restricts the amount of alcohol allowed into the community.
On Saturday night, Fort Good Hope RCMP stopped a woman they say was carrying nearly 40 bottles of booze into the community. The woman, 34, has since been charged under the NWT Liquor Act.
Getting out on the land
Like many other NWT communities, Fort Good Hope residents are getting out on the land in an effort to distance themselves physically from one another.
About 40 people are currently out on the land, some of whom have been receiving funds from the band to stock up on supplies beforehand, said Masuzumi.