Ki’suk kyukyit (greetings). In mid-March, the country and world changed in a way that I could not even imagine. The way we do things changed. The way we live changed. The Lower Kootenay Band closed our offices due to COVID-19. We closed our Band Operated School for the safety of our children, teachers, and community. Our beloved Ainsworth Hot Springs remains closed and we are not certain as to when we will reopen or what being open will look like.
Despite the LKB Administration Office being closed to the public we found creative ways to not have a stoppage in services to LKB members. It was, and is, difficult to operate, but much of what the Lower Kootenay Band does is deliver services to our citizens. The system that we have in place is far from perfect, but we must find resilience during this current crisis.
As a child, much of our time was spent harvesting wild game. Everything from ducks, geese, to grouse and pheasant. We harvested deer, elk, and moose as well. I will say with much honesty that on many of those hunts I was not happy to be there. I was not happy hiking for miles in the snow or rain. I was not happy feeling the frigid temperatures, but I knew that if we did not hunt, we did not eat. We hunted for community first and then ourselves. There were times that I was resentful, as after the harvest we would be left with a couple of steaks and maybe a roast. It is tradition and an expectation that we hunt for community. This is an expectation of a young Ktunaxa man to hunt for the people. This is when the concept of servant leadership began and remains with me today.
When it began apparent that COVID-19 was a crisis, many went to the extreme with panic purchasing, and many grocery store shelves were empty. This was a signal to me that at the moment there wasn’t enough food to go around. The teachings of a hunter were needed now more than ever. What I once did not look forward to (hunting) was now what was needed to put food on the table. Although LKB’s hunters are a small group, we reverted back to what we grew up with and began harvesting wild game and building up the community’s food stores.
On my first outing I wounded an elk and it was trying to swim the Kootenay River. Keep in mind this was late March and the weather was far from warm. Our hunting party had to then retrieve the elk from the cold waters of the river. This was the community’s food. This was now about survival. We did what we had to do and retrieved the elk from the water.
My job now looks so different from what it once was before. One day, I’m retrieving an elk from the Kootenay River, the next day, I am applying for emergency funding for the Lower Kootenay Band Community. There is no longer a concept of days for me. Each day seems the same. Ever have that feeling of a weekend or a long weekend? There’s a feeling associated with that. A Friday used to just feel like a Friday and a Saturday just felt like a Saturday. That feeling no longer exists. Every day just feels like a continuation from the previous day to me.
There are also the physiological affects of this COVID-19 crisis. Going out into public causes much anxiety and frustration. I was already dealing with issues of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, this crisis has just added another layer of mental health issues. My fear of large crowds has intensified. My anger rises if someone in public gets too close to me. Going out now has a new definition. Going out on the town now means going to the grocery store.
My circle of human interaction consists of my wife, child, and grandson, and a select few at work. When we do see an end to this crisis, there will be a lot to deal with. How will society undo what has been ingrained into our actions and thinking? How will we get out of this survival mode? Only time will tell.
The Canadian Governments mandatory closure of business and services was done in an attempt to “flatten the curve”, which I totally see is working as British Columbia’s COVID-19 numbers are slowly declining. The closures of businesses are having a negative affect on our economy. It will take much time for the economy to recover from this crisis, and sadly, some businesses may not be able to bounce back from COVID’s devastating blow.
I have come to despise the catch phrase “the new normal”. Please if at all possible, do not use that phrase, as there is nothing normal to what is happening in our world. I do want to extend well wishes and encouragement to you all to keep fighting the good fight. If at times you may feel alone, know that you are not alone. Please reach out for help if on some days you aren’t coping well. We have no choice but to fight to survive. Giving up cannot be an option. No one must be left behind.
This crisis is far from over. There will be many trying days ahead. Let this be the test of true Canadian values. Let us all be on the right side of history as these days are remembered, let the history be many Canadians stepped up and extended their hands to each other in the spirit of humanity. Let it be that we loved our neighbours and we made sure that no one went without.
With that I wish you all well. Be strong, be vigilant, and do everything you can to protect yourselves from this deadly virus. TAXAS