Shamattawa First Nation beyond breaking point with COVID-19 outbreak


Shamattawa First Nation is waiting for the military and other organizations to arrive in the community that is currently dealing with an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.

As of Monday evening, Chief Eric Redhead wrote on Facebook that there were 264 active cases with 221 of those directly in the community.

Shamattawa sits approximately 750 km north of Winnipeg and has a population of a little more than 1,000 people.

Redhead says the community needs help now.

“We’re really, we’re past the breaking point, we’ve broken. We just need, we need boots on the ground right now because our boots are out for the count,” Redhead told APTN News.

Five members of the Red Cross are in the community and have taken over the community’s pandemic response according to Redhead.

At the moment, the community’s pandemic team is either isolating due to exposure to the virus or have tested positive for COVID-19.

Members of the Bear Clan are also set to arrive in Shamattawa today as well to assist with whatever the community might need and was confirmed by Indigenous Services.

“A number of key community staff are currently unavailable to support pandemic response due to isolation requirements. To bolster the response, the Bear Clan will also support the community and focus on enforcing public health orders,” said spokesperson William Olscamp.

Six Canadian Rangers from the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group is expected to arrive in Shamattawa although the date of their arrival is still unclear.

In an emailed statement from the Department of National Defence – the Rangers will provide many supports and services related to humanitarian efforts.

“Specifically the CAF will provide assistance to the community in the production and distribution of real-life-support requirements such as food, firewood and care packages,” the email stated.

Any tasks will be required will be done over a period of 30 days, and the emailed statement also said the situation will be monitored over the 30 days.

“As the situation develops, we will continue to assess the requirement for CAF support in the area through on-the-ground reporting, in coordination with our whole-of-government partners, including Public Safety and Indigenous Services Canada.”

Redhead outlined some of the specifics he hopes the Rangers can assist with upon arrival.

“What we need right now is we need isolation units, we need their military expertise in terms of medical stuff. We need their nurses, their doctors. Right now our pandemic response team is very very fatigued, they’re tired, they’re overworked. We need a relief for them,” he said.

“No community wants the military in their community. You know, we don’t want that right but we need it right now.”

The MKO with Chief Redhead has also penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking the seniors to be evacuated from the community to be closer to health services if the need arises.

Perry Bellegarde also stated on twitter that he will be writing the Prime Minister supporting this plea.

Shamattawa community members are also being sent away from the community to isolate and the community’s gym is also being used to isolate its members.

Reporter / Winnipeg

Darrell is a proud member of Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. He is a graduate of the television program from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton. He is returning to APTN after having completed an internship with us in 2018 and a brief stop as a reporter in B.C. in 2019.