Twenty Canupawakpa Dakota Nation residents, have received their first round of immunizations as of Wednesday, Jan. 20. On this small reserve of 100 households near Pipestone, Elders aged 70 and over got the Moderna vaccine.
Two nurses, Candice Sanderson and Karrie Delowski, who work at Canupawakpa Dakota Nation Health Centre took the required training for the vaccination clinic. To put people at ease with taking the shot, one nurse points out that she has already received the vaccine, with no bad reactions.
Health Director for Canupawakpa, Carol McKay Whitecloud explained, “First Nation health experts have advised that the vaccine is the best tool to provide us with protection from the Coronavirus.”
She says First Nations make up close to 60 per cent of all active cases in the province at present and 40 per cent of new cases. They are over represented in hospitalizations and in ICU admissions due to COVID-19.
COVID’s COMMUNITY IMPACT
Gloria Eastman, one of the first people to receive the vaccine was cheerful about the event. She had heard some talk against the vaccine, but said, “I’ve been getting the flu vaccine for years.”
The nurse told her to go ahead and take all her regular medications and something for pain if necessary. She told Eastman, “You can call me at any time.”
Vaccine recipients were seated in the Health Centre board room for 15 minutes for observation before they were served a hot bacon/sausage breakfast from the kitchen.
Although she doesn’t like the restrictions on shopping and visiting, Eastman says, “I’m retired from my work,” and adds, “I’m always busy. I do beadwork and I sew.”
Eastman is an early riser, checking the COVID-19 statistics every morning.
“What I missed the most, when you go to do some shopping, you can’t do very much. And at Christmas time especially. So, Christmas was way different this year.”
The loss of her son and a nephew this year has been particularly difficult, along with restrictions that impact the mourning process. “We usually have our traditional wake, but that can’t be done.”
Yet, Eastman has a cheerful countenance and was pleasantly surprised by the morning meal she received.
McKay Whitecloud says many services of the health centre, including dental and foot care have been suspended.
When COVID cases showed up in communities where Canupawakpa students go to school – Reston and Virden - the health director says, “The leadership made a decision to stop school bus drivers from transporting the kids.”
Students are being schooled remotely at present.“They’re still able to meet their educational milestones.”
With the normal school and extra-curricular activities suspended, McKay Whitecloud says, “There’s no outlet for the kids.” However, there’s an outdoor rink that’s ready for skaters now.
A COVID-19 planning team has been busy working out protective measures for the community.
“We’ve also developed an alternative isolation unit within the community, should a family require to isolate outside of their home. We’re hoping that people can isolate and recover in their homes. But leadership did not want our members to have to go to Brandon to isolate.”
Since November, a highway sign stated that Canupawakpa was closed to visitors; so far there have been no positive cases.
While the health director is concerned about the toll on mental health in this close-knit community, she considers Canupawakpa to be “very rich in their culture” which they practice on a daily basis.
Medicines are boiled up from herbs and prayer is offered during the process - “acknowledgement of the Creator with the power to heal.”
McKay Whitecloud knows there’s a long road ahead yet for community safety, but she’s encouraged by positive things like the health staff pitching in and making a meal.
“It warms my heart to see that. There’s a word in our language, Waunsila, that means to have care, compassion and pity for one another. And I see that really strong in this community.”