As a possible second wave of COVID-19 looms over Canada, the community of Colville Lake, N.W.T., is prepared to keep people safe by doing what they have always done — live off the land.
They spent the last week repairing a hunting camp about 160 kilometres east of the community.
"Should any sickness come, we're thinking about relocating our members to there," said band manager Joseph Kochon.
Last week, community members went to the camp to build two shacks to complement the several tent frames already set up in the area over the last few decades. They fixed up their dock, all-terrain vehicles and boats.
"We don't have to rely on the store. Most of the food sources, the animals that are out there, we live off of on a daily basis. So we'd just grab the basic necessities," said Kochon.
"If anything should occur, then well, we're going to be OK there."
The camp lies at the foot of a hill where it's sheltered from wind and caribou pass through. The camp is not just a contingency plan, but a place of deep connection.
"Everywhere you go there's footprints," Kochon said. "It's really dear to us and we just continue carrying on the tradition. Our ancestors have done it for hundreds of years before us. Slowly we're uncovering their footprints."
While out at camp, the community has found overgrown teepees and caribou corrals. They even found a birch bark canoe. There are no large birch trees in the area, so Kochon suspects the boat came from the Dehcho region.
The camp is also a place to keep young people connected with harvesting and being on the land.
"For the generations coming after us, they're getting lost in technology and we're hoping to help them continue and reconnect to where their roots are."
Being on the land is about "finding out who you are," said Kochon.
Community 'ready for anything'
With knowledge of how to live off the land, Colville Lake is "ready for anything," said Kochon.
"For a small community, we have to be proactive and be ready for anything [and] ensure that if there is any virus, that it doesn't spread."
Community members are out on the land harvesting daily. Every year, they take up to 130 people out to the camp — roughly the population of the town.
"You could take up to a thousand people if you had to, but that's how many we are."
Kochon said if the community does send its members out to the camp, a few people will stay behind to keep the local store and power running.
He said if a COVID-19 outbreak does come up North, the community will be safe.