The second wave of this COVID-19 virus is affecting Indigenous communities across Canada. As of Monday (Feb. 1), there are 63 active cases within the Stoney Nakoda Oyade. In total, there have been 411 positive cases according to the Nakoda Emergency Management website.
Stoney Tribal Administration has declared a state of emergency and have implemented guidelines for social distancing. Social distancing is difficult because there are some large families living in overcrowded low-quality housing.
In such situations, the transmission of COVID-19 is likely. Therefore, it is important to adhere to all safety precautions outlined by the Alberta Government and the Stoney Tribal Council. These precautions are for your own safety and the safety of others.
Indigenous people depend on each other in times of hardship and maintain strong familial bonds, COVID-19 has been difficult on our people. During the first wave, we watched in disbelief, like so many others, as the virus spread like wildfire. We were fortunate to have survived that first wave with no loss of life.
As COVID-19 takes lives, families all over the world stand by helplessly. Many have died alone in hospital beds with families watching over cell phones. Many have watched loved ones through windows if only to say one last farewell. It has been heart breaking to witness.
Like many governments, Stoney Tribal Council has banned all community gatherings including wakes and funerals. As a result, families must deal with the loss of their loved ones with only the support of immediate family. This is difficult because our community is connected through various kinships and long-standing friendships.
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of six including four Elders in recent weeks. As we are unable to be physically present to support these families, all we can do is offer condolences on social media and through the moccasin telegraph. With two members of council in recovery and many residents isolated at home, this virus is very much in our community.
The loss of life is not just related to COVID-19. A crystal meth crisis is devastating our community. There are those who have fought disease ultimately taking their journeys to the spirit world. Losses have been many in recent weeks. To those who have endured loss and to our community I offer the following Lakota prayer translated to Îethka:
Wakâ tâga ho ganutha nen nâwarhû ne
Ta rhâîgikchu ze ûth Mâkocî nen nîbi îkubi ze
Wasagabi nuhe ze
Nâgu wathnogiyabi nuhe ze