Tansi! As Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc., I am writing to provide you with an update on various issues we are dealing with at MKO in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am providing updates on:

  • Recognizing nurses during National Nursing Week
  • The province’s re-opening plan
  • Continuing restrictions for travel to Northern Manitoba
  • Self-identifying as First Nation if you test positive for COVID-19
  • Homelessness and off-reserve members
  • Good news stories

I’d like to start my message by acknowledging the ongoing hard work from Chief and Councillors as well as health directors and all frontline staff. This is a challenging time and I want to encourage you to keep up the hard work on behalf of your communities.

I am now providing updates on NCI radio. You can tune in for my update at 5:30 pm on weekdays. A new message is being provided each week.


Recognizing nurses

May 11 to 17 is National Nursing Week and Wednesday, May 13 is Indigenous Nurses Day. I acknowledge all nurses who dedicate their lives to helping others. Your commitment to caring for others is especially important during this difficult time.


Manitoba’s re-opening plan

The province has recently started to lift some restrictions. This is NOT a return to normal. The Chief Provincial Medical Officer is encouraging Manitoba residents to stay vigilant.

Travel to Manitoba north of the 53rd parallel continues to be prohibited. Travel restrictions continue until further notice. With the start of fishing season, MKO will be seeking clarification on messaging around travel to Northern Manitoba as we know many fishers will be wanting to travel North.


Continuing restrictions for travel to Northern Manitoba

Most First Nations have closed their borders and are restricting non-essential travel. Not being able to travel can be challenging for many of us. I am encouraging First Nation citizens to continue listening to the advice shared by the leaders in each First Nation. I know the Chiefs have the best interests of community members in mind. Thanks for listening to the public health orders.


Self-identifying if you test positive for COVID-19

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever, fatigue, or dry cough, please consider getting tested for the virus. Anyone with symptoms can be tested for free. If you have any questions about getting tested, call Health Links 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The number is 1-888-315-9257.

The Province of Manitoba has agreed to gather information about who is testing positive for COVID-19. If YOU do test positive for COVID-19 and you are First Nation, I encourage you to self-identify. Having access to this information will help us create plans to respond to COVID-19.


Homelessness and off-reserve members

We continue to be concerned about people who don’t have homes. It is impossible to self-isolate when you don’t have a place of your own. In Thompson, 25 of these people have been staying in dorm rooms at the Y. Many of these people are from MKO First Nations. The City of Thompson is working to support the people staying in the dorms. People are receiving counselling and support from the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.

MKO is seeking financial resources so we can assist off-reserve members during the pandemic, however, we have not yet received any funding for this purpose. We continue to push Indigenous Services Canada for answers on which nine organizations have received funding to assist off-reserve First Nations citizens.


Good news stories

MKO wishes to share stories about what First Nations are doing to promote health. MKO wants to hear the good stories from your community. Email them to us at [email protected].

Some of the good news stories we have heard include the following:

  • In O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, the community is working to keep children and families active. They have different activities happening every week, such as a snow sculpture contest and goose hunting activities.
  • In Sapotaweyak Cree Nation, there is also an emphasis on land-based activities, including maple syrup activities. Community members are going out and getting fish for the Elders, gathering medicines to help boost the immune system, and they are also processing geese.
  • In Pimicikamak Cree Nation, there are online activities and games with prizes for multiple winners.
  • Many communities are getting ready for spring clean up, with some communities creating contests for this.


Thank you reading this update from MKO. Ekosani, masi cho, miigwetch, and thank you,

Grand Chief Garrison Settee