Maskwacis Nation in Alberta declares state of emergency

The four First Nations that make up the Maskwacis community in Alberta have declared a state of emergency due to their proximity to Edmonton and Alberta.

Leaders from Samson, Erminskin, Louis Bull and Montana want financial aid from the federal government to get testing kits, supplies and housing assistance.

They’re using the famine and pestilence clause from Treaty 6 which was signed in 1876.

“Our ancestors knew these days are coming and we overcame many obstacles so that we could stand here today,” said Marlene Poitras, Alberta regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations. “They made sure the clause would be there in time of great need, and that time is now.

“It is incumbent upon the Crown, the other partner, to act with honour and to come to the support of Nations.”

As of this posting, Alberta has 358 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Two people have died.

Poitras said the proximity of the nations to two international airports in Edmonton and Calgary leaves their community at risk.

“If the virus were to come into First Nations communities, the affect would be devastating,” she said. “We are very vulnerable. We have many issues… overcrowded housing. The list goes on and on and we don’t have the same level of health care services that the rest of Canada enjoys.”

Former Treaty 6 Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild wants community members to follow social distancing and the guidelines set by the bands.

He warned young people to take this pandemic seriously.

“This message is directly to you, the young people, You heard your leaders, listen, listen to their message.

“This is a very serious issue.”

Schools in Alberta are closed as are many businesses.

The ones that remain open can not allow more than 50 people inside at once.

Video Journalist / Edmonton

Chris Stewart has been in the media for 20 years. He has worked at CBC, Global and CTV as a news camera operator and editor. Chris joined APTN in 2012 in the Saskatoon Bureau and moved to APTN Edmonton bureau in 2015 as a Videojournalist.