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Cree hunters to get new bush kits that meet changing needs

BY Amy German Sep 13, 2019

The new kits are based on data collected in 2017

The Cree Medical Bush Kit program is being revamped to help make hunting trips safer. New kits will provide a wider range of emergency medical supplies – and the training on how to use them.

After reevaluating the original Bush Kit program, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) and the Cree Trappers’ Association (CTA) decided to collaborate on a new kit that would take into account both medical innovations and current needs.

According to Clark Shecapio of the CTA, the bush kit program is essential for their members. Shecapio said the program had been available on and off since the 1990s.

The new kits are based on data collected in 2017 from CTA members, and designed in close consultation with Sirius MED, the largest provider of wilderness first aid and wilderness first responder programs in Canada.

“We came up with three options for the Cree Medical Bush Kit: [one for] a long period of time, a short period of time and then a basic bush kit,” said Laure Béziers, a Planning Programming Research Officer at Public Health.

According to the CBHSSJB, Niskamoon Corporation and the Health Board have provided funds for the program but more money is needed to complete the revamp. The training program, which is necessary for someone to pass before obtaining a kit, has not begun its trial phase to ensure its efficacy.

“We will test the training as a pilot program at the end of November in Whapmagoostui with 10 future bush kit representatives,” said Béziers.

For the moment, the plan is to train a group of community health representatives in mid-January and then begin a trial of the actual program in Whapmagoostui and Waskaganish in March 2020 before Goose Break.

Other communities can expect to see the release of the new kits and the training programs in 2021.

According to the Health Board, land users should see the Cree Medical Bush Kit as a new program, even if the way of using the kit hasn’t changed dramatically. Training on how to use the kits however will be absolutely essential.

While the new versions of the kit will contain updated pharmaceuticals, the Health Board wants users to see them as a “Plan B,” and that land users should plan their trips efficiently, bringing with them their own medical supplies. The goal with these kits is to improve patient health while extending time in the bush for those practicing a traditional life.

For instance, course materials now include a guide to dealing with hypothermia – which is ironically a growing danger due to climate change.

“Crees are very resilient and they should always be careful when they are travelling in the country and take into perspective that the weather changes very fast and the ice can melt or turn into slush in one day,” Béziers explained.

Some of the training will also address traditional bush medicine. Waskaganish, Chisasibi and Mistissini have all published books on traditional medicine, while the CBHSSJB Nishiiyuu Department and the Council of Regional Elders are currently hearing presentations to help them choose what they want to include in the Cree Medical Bush Kit program.

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Amy German has worked in the magazine industry since 2001 and has her own personal blog. She is pretty much never without something to say and is always looking for a story.