Documentary on Siksika COVID-19 response released

·3 min read

A new documentary shows how Siksika Health Services (SHS) responded to an outbreak of COVID-19 in Siksika Nation.

The film, Siksika Cares, highlights the ways health care professionals worked together and approached the outbreak during its first 125 days.

The documentary was produced to show how Siksika Nation faced one of its greatest challenges, said Tyler White, SHS chief executive officer.

“We were probably one of the first First Nations hit with a large outbreak in Alberta,” said White. “Reflecting on that experience, we all felt strongly that we needed a way to tell our story.”

The film presents individual parts of Siksika’s overall response, but also how they worked alongside one another.

“It reflects the different facets of the team, whether it be nursing, EMS, community health or long-term care – just different components coming together.”

It also shows how SHS adapted to a new and uncertain situation, noted White.

“Being innovative and creative, but also listening to our community, was very helpful in our approach,” he said. “We were always able to adjust, tweak, and I think strengthen our services as we moved forward.”

Siksika Cares is the work of filmmaker Trevor Solway, who originates from Siksika.

“Anytime as a filmmaker I can give back to my community and just play my role as a storyteller, I’ll always find time to do that,” he said.

The documentary was produced with the help of the SHS communication teams, including Kelsey Solway (Trevor’s cousin) and Jennifer Kohlhammer.

“To have their insight was really important,” he said. “They helped with crafting the story and getting access to the doctors and health experts and professionals who are really busy. They made it happen.”

But from a filmmaking standpoint, Solway did most of the technical work on his own, including lighting, shooting, audio and editing.

“It was a one-man crew,” he said. “On most professional film sets, that’s not really how we roll. But in this pandemic, we couldn’t have a big crew, so we kept things pretty simple.”

However, Solway received the help of a Siksika resident, Lars Duck Chief, to capture drone imagery of Siksika’s landscapes.

“We started from one end of the reserve and went to other to get all these different drone shots,” he said. “Our reserve is the second largest in Canada, so it was a full day of capturing stuff.”

Directing a drone was a new experience for Solway. “With a camera, you’re used to tilting and panning up and down and side to side, and zooming” he said. “But to have the mobility of a drone unlocked a lot of creativity for me, and (Duck Chief) was a great collaborator.”

The film was shot in just eight days in September and October 2020.

“The numbers were low and life seemed normal,” said Solway. Shortly after that though, case numbers increased again, more lockdowns happened and subjects became busy again. “So, we just kind of finished right on time,” he added.

Solway hopes the documentary exemplifies the dedication of Siksika Health Services.

“The team has been working really hard and a lot of it sometimes goes unnoticed,” he said. “Siksika Health jumped out ahead, responded in their own way, and I’m sure saved a lot of lives.”

Siksika Cares is viewable on the Siksika Nation Administration Facebook page.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times