For immediate release
March 25, 2022
Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is issuing this statement to provide an update about ongoing efforts to support and assist the Sayisi Dene Denesuline Nation at Tadoule Lake in Northern Manitoba as it continues with healing efforts in response to a tragedy that took place in January 2022.
MKO’s Mobile Crisis Response Team and Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin continue to have a presence in the community, along with Elders who have been deployed via MKO’s Traditional Healer Program. The ability to have multiple service providers within the community has been challenging due to a lack of available accommodations.
MKO has been working to find a solution to accommodate visiting Elders and service providers while they are supporting the Sayisi Dene Denesuline Nation, as well as to provide isolation and safe spaces for community members. MKO’s staff has worked with many partners to advocate for the procurement and delivery of dormitory-style trailer units to increase the capacity of the community to provide appropriate accommodations for external service providers.
“The Sayisi Dene Denesuline Nation appreciates the ongoing emergency assistance from a variety of partners, including MKO,” said Chief Evan Yassie of the Sayisi Dene Denesuline Nation. “Thank you to everyone for their hard work and dedication to getting fuel into the community in February and for arranging the shipment of trailers to our community over the winter road. This increases opportunities to provide support to our citizens and provides much-needed isolation and safe spaces. We look forward to having the trailers arrive in the community this Sunday before the winter road closes for the season. Ma si cho to everyone.”
MKO engaged both levels of governments and MKO’s First Nation and corporate partners to respond to Sayisi Dene during their crisis. Through this response, MKO worked with Calm Air, Exchange Petroleum, and Indigenous Services Canada to get barrels of diesel fuel and gasoline flown into the community. A fuel shortage was a most pressing initial concern as it impacted the ability of service providers to perform mental wellness checks in the community and raised concerns about whether citizens would have enough fuel to heat their homes. As well, RCMP had no fuel to heat their patrol cabin. It took Calm Air two trips to deliver fuel in February due to the short length of the runway.
More recently, there was a discussion about the mental health and traditional healer supports that are needed in the community to support healing efforts. A lack of accommodations to enable them to spend time in the First Nation to make connections and develop relationships is a major challenge.
“At first, MKO staff reached out to Manitoba Hydro through our First Nation partners to ask about purchasing demobilized dormitory trailer units from the Keeyask Camp. Although MKO explained the urgency related to the winter road, Manitoba Hydro added MKO to a general tender list with a bid date that was after the forecast closure of the winter road. Much persistence by MKO, including inquiries with Boxx-Britco led to the Black Diamond company identifying the opportunity to purchase units from a former Bi-Pole III project camp,” shared Grand Chief Settee. “MKO staff worked diligently to arrange for the purchase and transportation of the units, including advocating with senior officials of the office of the Honourable Doyle Piwniuk, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, for an extension of the winter road for several days. The trucks from VDM Trucking Service are picking up the trailers in Brandon and they are hauling the units to Tadoule Lake using the winter road, which is being maintained during the three-day extension by crews from the Northlands Denesuline First Nation and the Barren Lands First Nation.”
“As we have previously stated, there must be a ‘whole of government response’ to stem the raging epidemic in bootlegging and drug-dealing in MKO First Nations. MKO extends our heartfelt thanks to all of our provincial, federal, First Nation, and corporate partners for listening to, understanding, and responding to our concerns and for working together in partnership to support the Sayisi Dene Denesuline Nation,” said Grand Chief Settee.
“I also express our appreciation to Calm Air, Indigenous Services Canada, and most recently to the Province of Manitoba for supporting the Sayisi Dene Denesuline Nation,” stated Chief Evan Yassie. “I also thank MKO staff for working diligently to ensure the Sayisi Dene citizens receive support as they continue to grapple with the tragic loss of a community member. There are MKO staff members on the ground as well as others who are working behind the scenes remotely. I would especially like to recognize Michael Anderson and Brennan Manoakeesick for their recent efforts to organize the procurement and shipment of trailers that will provide much-needed accommodations for service providers as well as isolation and safe spaces for community.”
Chief Evan Yassie, Grand Chief Settee and Dr. Barry Lavallee, Chief Executive Officer of Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin, have discussed the situation in Sayisi Dene with the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada as well as the Honourable Heather Stefanson, Premier of Manitoba; the Honourable Kevin Goertzen, Minister of Justice; the Honourable Audrey Gordon, Minister of Health; the Honourable Dr. Alan Lagimodiere, Minister of Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations; and the Honourable Sarah Guillemard, Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness.
MKO will continue to work closely with the Sayisi Dene Denesuline Nation, Canada, Manitoba and MKO’s First Nation and corporate partners as a living example of a “whole of government response” to support ongoing healing efforts in the First Nation.
For more information:
Melanie Ferris, MKO Communications
Email: [email protected]