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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

COVID-19 and the Nation

BY Will Nicholls Apr 10, 2020

You may have noticed that this issue is published in a different format. As a result of COVID-19 the plant that prints the Nation is now closed. We had to use a different facility that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles we normally feature. 

In addition, Air Creebec has shut down passenger flights in and out of Eeyou Istchee. That means we had to find other ways to get print editions to our readers. We are doing our best to find solutions to these challenges because we believe it is necessary to supply the information people need during this health crisis if we are going to stay healthy – as individuals and as a nation.

The office is a lonely place these days. Everybody is working from home except for me. Phone calls to the Nation are transferred to one person who then lets us know who called and why. Please be patient and clear about why you are phoning so that we can direct you to the best person to handle your call. 

It is not business as usual. When I step into the office, I use hand sanitizer right away even though I wear gloves when I am outside my home or office. It’s the smart thing to do as the virus remains active for long periods on a variety of surfaces. I also have a skidoo mask that I can put on if someone appears to be less than well when I’m on the bus. 

Speaking of which, it’s not much of a problem since there are never many other passengers these days, making it easy to keep up a two-metre distance. I do worry about taxis and Ubers however because you never know who they picked up earlier and what they touched.

It’s a scary time. In my grandmother’s family only four of her siblings – less than half the original number – survived a whopping cough epidemic that tore through our community. This was not the only time that Crees have faced a deadly epidemic. In another era, a severe form of gastritis proved fatal for several Crees, mostly Elders and the young. Leaders at the time insisted that folks head for the bush to avoid spreading or contracting the illness. They knew that isolation would stop its spread.

In this pandemic, our leadership is making gentler suggestions along the same lines. Whatever we do, we need to keep our distance from each other. Everyone needs to follow this advice, so the past is not repeated. When a few people ignore this recommendation, it puts everyone at risk.

For the sake of our families, friends and communities, everyone needs to respect these guidelines. The resources that are available in the Cree communities to handle the pandemic are limited. 

Don’t forget our past. We are a survival-oriented people. So please act like it.

The Nation will be here in these trying times to keep you up to date as best we can on how the pandemic is changing our lives and the best ways we can cope, adapt and survive.

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Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.