Apart from the odd essential worker, you won’t see many people around Colville Lake.
That’s because most residents have grabbed their gear, stocked up on essentials, and headed out on the land — part of an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 on the community’s own traditional terms.
“People are taking off on the land, and there’s people that are taking off already now. There’s a lot of caution,” said David Codzi, assistant band manager at Behdzi Ahda First Nation.
“There’s barely anybody in the community right now,” said Codzi. “We’re trying to isolate the community pretty early on.”
Of the some 170 residents that make up the small Sahtu community, Codzi said only about 80 are still in the community. Most of them, he said, are essential service workers — people manning garbage and sewage duties and overseeing water supplies.
Residents are receiving funding from the First Nation to stock up on supplies before heading out on the land to hunt, harvest and fish.
“We spent a lot of our own funds making sure people are getting out on the land, we bought – made sure they had food and gas and all that,” he said.
Codzi said he isn’t worried about food supplies in the small community. He is, however, concerned about the potential impact of COVID-19 on Colville Lake’s health station.
“We just have a community health liaison. We have a health station but it’s cramped and small,” said Codzi.
“(If COVID-19 does hit here) it will be overwhelming,” he said.
“I think most people are just going to stay away from the community for a little bit,” added Codzi.
Meanwhile, the community is doing everything it can — offline and online — to get the message across that COVID-19 is serious, and that social distancing protocol must be followed.
“We have signs up everywhere. There’s a lot of social networking on Facebook and those sorts of things. People are taking social distancing seriously,” Codzi told NNSL Media.
With few supports in the event of an outbreak, Codzi wants to see supplies allocated to the community by the GNWT.
“We don’t really have medical personnel with all the training,” said Codzi.
“They could send a bunch of PPEs (personal protective equipment) here so we’re prepared. Protective gear if anything comes to happen – like masks and gloves.”
Fortunately, said Codzi, the people of Colville Lake know how to meet adversity head on.
“Everybody has knowledge on the land,” he said.
“Part of our traditional stories — Elders always said there will come a time when we have to rely on the land again.
This is one of those moments.”