The northernmost Deh Cho Dene community of Wrigley is in a spring time limbo of physical isolation.
While the Mackenzie Highway provides land access to Wrigley, the ice is breaking up on the Mackenzie and Liard rivers, over which the road crosses, and ferries can’t yet operate.
The high cost of flights into and out of Wrigley, and flight schedules reduced to only twice a week make air travel a difficult option, said Chief Maurice Moses.
But members of Wrigley — or Pehdzéh Kı̨́ in Dene — don’t seem to mind because the hunting season is just starting.
Most people here already received a taste of the season in mid-April when they headed out onto the land to hunt, fish and self-isolate.
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“Everybody’s back (now) and doing their social distancing. They stay at home but go out (hunting) during the day,” Moses said.
“Most go hunting near the N’Dulee crossing. Everybody got some caribou and there was some moose. Right now people are harvesting geese. I was going to get some geese too. They’re really fat this year. I guess they had a good season down south.”
The fishing season is also not far off. It will follow the break up of the nearby Mackenzie River.
“The ice broke up at Fort Simpson, so it won’t be much longer before it gets here. Once it breaks, everybody will go out on the river. I can’t wait to go out onto the river,” said Moses, who looks forward to catching trout and northern pike.
“Everyone is on Facebook talking about the river breaking up at Simpson. Give or take about a week until it comes here. Everyone is servicing all their boats and stuff.”
Road block not needed
As a precaution against the spread of Covid-19 the community erected a roadblock in mid-April, barring access to all visitors, except those delivering essential goods.
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Moses said at the time that the move came out of concern for Wrigley’s Elders after unrecognized vehicles were seen cruising outside the community at night, arousing fears of outsiders transmitting the virus.
The roadblock was still there as of May 4, but Moses said there isn’t much need for it anymore now that Wrigley is basically cut off to land traffic until the N’Dulee ferry opens.
Mobile store meeting needs
The community sits at the end of the Mackenzie Highway, a 220-km drive north of Fort Simpson, where residents go for much of their retail food and supply needs. To ease that dependence, local company Pehdzeh Ki Contractors set up a mobile store so the community can buy food until the ferry opens in a week or two.
“It’s a double trailer with a kitchen. It only takes a few minutes to drive there. They opened it last week. It’s to help the members during the freeze-up and breakup. They sell essential items like sugar, lard, tea, butter, eggs, milk, bread, meat. As soon as the ferry comes they’ll sell everything for a big discount, maybe 30 per cent off,” Moses said.
Health precautions successful
People continue to practise social distancing and “do their own thing in their own time,” the chief said.
One month ago, Moses said a small number of people had been tested for the virus in the community’s health centre. All results came back negative.
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The temporary nurse said that in the time he has been in the community for the past week he has performed standard blood work tests on people, but no one has asked for a coronavirus test.
“About 10 people have come to me. I wear a mask all the time here. I don’t go out because I’m doing the self-isolation,” said the nurse, who identified himself as “manager.” He declined to give his full name. “No one has told me that they think they have Covid.”