Unvaccinated Cold Lake First Nation chief gets COVID-19 and is now encouraging everyone to get the shots

Roger Marten started to feel sluggish back in September – and then COVID-19 took over.


During his two weeks in an Edmonton hospital, Roger Marten was admitted to the intensive care unit, dropped 23 kilos, and had to be intubated to help him breathe.

“There were a lot of peaks and valleys that members of my nation were concerned about my health,” the Cold Lake First Nation chief tells APTN News. “I tell people basically I don’t know a whole lot. I went to sleep, I woke up.”

Martens says he does remember when everything started. In September he started to feel a little run down.

Shortly after, he had trouble breathing.

“My girlfriend, she came to pick me up. I told her I can’t get up, I can’t move,” he says. “So I called 9-1-1… 9-1-1 came, picked me up, took me to the hospital. As far as I remember, going to the hospital, sitting there as they worked on me. I remember calling, saying ‘I think they might Airvac me to Edmonton.’

“The last thing I remember is waking up two weeks later.”

Along with being intubated, Marten says he was given the drug REGN-COV2 – an antibody “cocktail” given to COVID-19 patients.

After going unvaccinated, Marten picked up the COVID-19 Delta variant.

He thought he had a natural immunity after having Covid symptoms earlier in the pandemic.

Marten woke up from his medically induced coma on Sept. 22. Five days later he walked out under his own steam.

According to Indigenous Services Canada, Marten is one of 51,173 First Nations members living on reserve who have contracted the virus. ISC says there are 888 active cases as of this posting – 546 people have died.

Martens says he’s now pushing for people to get vaccinated.

Cold Lake
The band office in Cold Lake First Nation. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN.

Cold Lake First Nation currently has two active cases of COVID-19. Martens says the vaccination rate is sitting at around 70 per cent – he wants it higher.

“I don’t want anything to happen to anybody. It’s very bad. We lost some band members. It’s preventable if we all do our part and get our vaccination.”

Marten says his experience has changed the minds of some who weren’t planning to get the shots.

“I had some friends who were totally against the shots,” he says. “After they saw me, they said ‘hey Roger, because of you we got our shots. If it can happen to you, it’s too close to home.’

“I said ‘thank you, that makes me happy.’”

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.