Nearly 30 northwestern First Nations and indigenous organizations have received more than $7 million from the federal government to help them respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The money is part of more than $40 million provided to First Nations and indigenous organizations within B.C. and was first announced in late March as preparations to deal with the pandemic intensified.
Individual allocations were based on a core grant of $50,000 and population within First Nations communities as determined by the 2016 census. The latter also took into account remoteness from services and a wellness index based on income, education, housing and employment.
Using the money, First Nations established emergency response offices, hired staffers, arranged for the delivery of supplies and other material, advertised widely, posted COVID-19 precautionary information on websites and erected signs at entrances to communities to ward off any unnecessary traffic.
Within the northwest, the Nisga’a Nation was the largest recipient at $1.33 million, based on the populations of the four Nisga’a villages within the Nass Valley.
The Nisga’a Lisims Government has maintained an active COVID-19 information flow on its website, providing continual updates as to prevention measures and the open or closed status of its various outdoor recreation sites.
Based in the Hazeltons, the Gitksan Local Services Society, which represents the interests of the Gitksan communities in that area, received the second largest amount at $1.065 million.
In the Vanderhoof area, the Saik’uz First Nation received $195,435.
The Lake Babine Nation, in the Burns Lake area, one of the larger First Nations by population in the northwest, received $260,754 while the Burns Lake Indian Band, with a smaller population, received $73,882.
Further west, the Wet’suwet’en Treaty Office received $65,000 while the Witset First Nation, near Smithers, received $329,303.
Individually, within the Hazelton area, the Gitsegukla Indian Band received $258,650 while the Gitwangak Indian Band received $247,366.
Just east of Terrace, the Kitselas First Nation received $196,257 while the Kitsumkalum First Nation, just west of Terrace, received $184,086.
In the north, the Tahltan Band received $50,000, the Tahltan Indian Band $173,021 and the Tahltan, Kaska, Tlingit – 3N Society $66,000.
Within the Tahltan traditional territory, the Tahltan Central Government was particularly active in providing information and combining with mining companies and others to supply firewood, sanitizer and other supplies.
Just outside of Kitimat, the Haisla Nation received $277,880. In turn, the Haisla made a substantial donation in the amount of $300,000 for supplies and equipment destined for Kitimat General Hospital in Kitimat and Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace.
On the North Coast, the Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band, a community with a sizeable population, received $355,999 and the Metlakatla Indian Band $89,475.
Lax Kw’alaams, at the spring height of COVID-19 spread worries, emerged as a leading advocate for stringent precautions with mayor Garry Reece warning of its willingness to establish a checkpoint on Highway 16 between Terrace and Prince Rupert.
That was on the strength of a small piece of its reserve land over which Highway 16 crossed at Salvus. The provincial transportation ministry acknowledged it did not have tenure in place for the highway to cross the reserve land.
On Haida Gwaii, the Old Massett Village Council Band received $319,863 while the Skidegate Indian Band received $417,719.
The Haida Nation early on declared the entire islands as closed to tourist and other non-essential travel to the point of meeting a ferry on which it was said was a group of anglers.
Its members have since protested the opening of a fishing lodge.
Although not a First Nation, CFNR, an indigenous radio station covering a wide stretch of the north and interior, received $200,000.
(The above figures are a representative sampling taken from information made available by the federal Indigenous Services Canada department.)