KINGFISHER LAKE FIRST NATION – William Mekanak and Bryan Sainnawap, along with others who joined at various points along the way, arrived in Sioux Lookout April 3 after walking 500 kilometres from Kingfisher Lake First Nation to Sioux Lookout, Ont. It was an emotional arrival for the group as they were joined by leaders and community members for the final leg of the walk.
Mekanak, 37, and Sainnawap, 16, set out March 16 to raise funds for a new building to house a Suboxone Treatment Program. Mekanak, a Kingfisher Lake band councillor, said he got the idea for the walk in September 2011 after the community lost two people in recent years because of prescription drug abuse.
“It is time as a leader to take a stand and show other First Nations that we need to stop (prescription drug abuse),” Mekanak said after arriving in Sioux Lookout.
Currently, the community operates the Suboxone treatment program out of the local nursing station. To date, Kingfisher Lake has had two intakes of detox programming using Suboxone. The first intake was in September 2011, taking in 23 clients. The second intake in January included 18 people.
Prescription drug abuse has severely impacted many First Nations in northern Ontario. In 2009, Nishnawbe Aski Nation chiefs declared a regional state of emergency. In the last six months, two First Nations declared community state of emergencies. Resources to combat the problem are minimal in many communities, especially for treatment and detox programs.
However, the vision for the new treatment program would open its doors not only to Kingfisher Lake residents, but to Shibogama First Nations Council member communities and other surrounding First Nations. Mekanak said the walk is just the beginning, as fundraising efforts will continue to reach $150,000 for the new building.
“The journey must go on,” Mekanak said.
Donations can be made several ways:
- Bank Deposit at CIBC: Transit: 00387 / Account number: 53-02013;
- Dropping off cash or cheque at Shibogama First Nations Council in Sioux Lookout;
- Northern Cash Link: 6063 5700 0303 3837;
- Email money transfer: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Cheques can be made payable to: Kingfisher Lake First Nation c/o Awareness Walk
Photo Credit: Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority
In the photograph: Kingfisher Lake Coun. William Mekanak, centre, and youth Bryan Sainnawap, third from right (holding flag), are joined by community members and leaders as they make their way into Sioux Lookout April 3 2012 after walking 500 kilometres from Kingfisher Lake First Nation.