Under The Northern Sky ‘Keeping An Eye On Covid19’

Under the Northern Sky

We, humans, are definitely good at adapting. Although the going has been tough, in the middle of a terrible pandemic with Covid-19, we are all for the most part dealing with it. I see people out and about now at stores and offices with masks on, being careful with each other, and staying two meters away. Things are opening up slowly and we are adapting to a new normal.

The experts in the medical world are letting us know that it will be perhaps two years until we get some type of vaccine and in the meantime, we might have some good treatments developed that help to deal with this virus. Many of us have been at work and on the front lines for months and that has taken a toll on everyone. We have to remain vigilant and careful as time moves along in honour of all those people who have been at work providing for us while we were isolating. We need to follow the rules of wearing masks, staying two meters away from others and washing hands often as a way to appreciate the sacrifice so many people have made for us in the medical field, the grocery stores, hardware stores, all kinds of factories, farms, plants, mines, and essential services. Today all of us can enjoy a little more freedom in following the rules when out in public because of the months of risk all these people had to go through and of course our own dedication to isolating at home to battle this virus.

The reality is that there is more work to do and we all have to rise to the challenge. It is up to all of us to question how things are opening, the timing for the return to a more normal life, and how much risk is evident with some of the moves being made by the government. Universities, colleges, high schools, and elementary schools are all faced with opening up again. Although there are all kinds of good reasons for students and teachers to be going back to buildings for education and social interactions, none of that should risk getting sick or dying from this virus. Most of the country has been opening up now for a couple of weeks and it will become evident in the next month just what that means in any increase in numbers of cases and deaths from this virus. Hopefully, we are all being careful but if not it will become painfully obvious.

Education facilities could open up if it is possible to maintain safe social distancing between educators and students but that is not easy. Opening up schools could be made possible with mandatory mask-wearing and more stringent hand hygiene but that is also very difficult to do. Perhaps as we move closer to September we will see our track record of following the rules. If cases and deaths spike we have to be ready to make our governments aware that as important as education is there are other ways to teach our students rather than asking them to risk sickness and death. I am very pleased with the travel restrictions and the support First Nation leadership has been providing for my people right across Canada and in particular up the James Bay coast. Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN), Chiefs of Ontario, Muskegowuk Council, Wabun Tribal Council, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and so many other councils were early to lobby the Federal and provincial governments for health and well-being programs as well as funding for this emergency pandemic. So far our First Nations are holding their own despite less than perfect living conditions.

Governments are doing what they can and what makes sense to them in directing the public, corporations, business, and financial leaders. All of the decision-makers are doing their best to keep the economy from crashing and the best-case scenario is that our commitment to being careful and following the rules will work. However, if we see a spike in cases and deaths we have to be ready to stand up and demand that lives are more important than anything else so that these decision-makers do the right thing. We all have loved ones, family, and friends who are returning to work in all kinds of business settings and of course in our schools, universities, and colleges. It is important to us that they have good social interactions in their environments and that they get a good education and can make a living but it is more important that they do not get sick and do not die from this virus. Don’t count on anybody else to make a good decision if things turn sour as that move is up to you, your family members, your friends, and your neighbors.

Stay safe and stay vigilant in keeping an eye on what develops over the next month or two.


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Under The Northern Sky is the title of a popular Aboriginal news column written by First Nation writer, Xavier Kataquapit, who is originally from Attawapiskat Ontario on the James Bay coast. He has been writing the column since 1997 and it is is published regularly in newspapers across Canada. In addition to working as a First Nation columnist, his writing has been featured on various Canadian radio broadcast programs. Xavier writes about his experiences as a First Nation Cree person. He has provided much insight into the James Bay Cree in regards to his people’s culture and traditions. As a Cree writer, his stories tell of the people on the land in the area of Attawapiskat First Nation were he was born and raised.