With many First Nations people displaced in Kamloops due to the wildfire crisis in the province, the Secwepemc Health Caucus (SHC) is providing all the help it can to evacuees in need.
David Archie, a traditional wellness co-ordinator with the SHC and Dog Creek resident, said the organization is currently working with 16 Secwepemc communities supporting their health and well being.
“We’re supporting communities to advocate spiritual support through drumming, singing, ceremony, smudging and brushing off,” Archie said.
Midway through his interview with the Tribune Archie stopped for a few moments to help an elder confined to a wheelchair who’d misplaced her clothing inside the Sandman Centre. He directed her, along with one of his colleagues to the CIBC a few blocks away where clothing and various other supplies are available to evacuees.
“We’re just making sure people have everything they need,” he said. “It’s everything from supporting our elders who need help or community members who need help with translations so they know how to get help. Advocacy is a big part of it by being able to bridge the communication between our First Nations people and there are people who are here to help bridge the gap.”
At the SHC booth roughly 15 volunteers have been working shifts throughout the day and evening since the centre opened.
“I’d say so far we’ve helped about 1,000 people,” Archie said.
The SHC is also providing traditional First Nations foods such as smoked salmon, among other things, to evacuees.
“I think it’s helping people connect to who they are and I hope we can bring a friendly face so they feel safe and welcome,” he said.
Traditional smudging – a spiritual and mental cleansing – is also being offered by Archie on site.
“It’s spiritual, emotional and cleansing. It gets rid of any emotions people have been dealing with and helps them to be in the present with what’s happening,” he said.
Archie is being joined in Kamloops by his brother, three sons – all from Williams Lake – along with countless other family members and friends.
“It’s great to be able to welcome people,” he said. “It’s hard to be away from home but it’s great to see people safe and I’m happy to be able to help out.”
There is also a SHC booth setup at the Kamloops Powwow Grounds where thousands of people are staying while evacuated.
“The biggest thing here is we’re able to support,” he said.
“We’re all – everyone one of us – part of a group of people who care.”