The chief of Shawanaga First Nation says it is community co-operation that has kept COVID-19 off its territory.
Chief Wayne Pamajewon said they have had no reported cases of the coronavirus in the local community since the global pandemic began some eight months ago. He added, however, that a member of the First Nation who lives in the U.S. did contract COVID but she has since recovered.
He said there are currently about 220 residents living in the community, while almost 500 more live outside the territory,
“We have taken precautions to prohibit COVID from happening. We asked our people to help us stay safe,” the chief said. “We have a webpage that we keep posting on. We have telephone calls (to community members) from managers who are working. But we don’t have full staff. Our office is not really open. We’ve shut down most buildings.”
Pamajewon said in the early days of the pandemic, the territory took steps to close off the community to outside traffic.
“We only allowed band members, people living inside the community to go out and come back. We took down details like where did you go? How long were you off the territory? — those kinds of questions,” Pamajewon said. “We haven’t continued to do that since July or August when we decided to give the membership a little more freedom because the Parry Sound area was pretty safe. I didn’t want to isolate them too much.”
The chief said there is also probably a bit of luck involved in not having a single case within the territory’s boundaries. However, he said he is confident that his people have taken the virus seriously and are following protocols like wearing masks in public, using hand sanitizer and keeping a social distance from others.
“That would make anyone feel good, particularly the leadership, to have the full support of their people,” he said.
Pamajewon is clear, however, that he is not letting his guard down when it comes to the pandemic and he wants his community members to do the same.
“We warned our people that (restrictions) could return when we backed things off a little bit in the summer. We told them if things should change we may have to change our plan again — maybe tighten up the boundaries again,” the chief said. “That is something they are all quite aware of.”
Pamajewon said the community is doing its utmost to make sure residents, particularly elders and children, are being well-cared-for during the pandemic.
“They are important people to us. We’ve got supplies in storage. We’ve got freezers full of food. We give handouts on Friday, or calls are made on Monday mornings to ask each household if they need anything. We try to help out everyone.”
Pamajewon also said that off-territory residents are currently allowed onto the territory, but he added that that could also change, depending upon COVID numbers in the area.
John McFadden is a Local Journalism Reporter with the Parry Sound North Star, MuskokaRegion.com and Simcoe.com. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada
, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com