The Government of Canada is working in close partnership with the Mushkegowuk Council Emergency Services Manager. This is to support the First Nations communities of Kashechewan and Fort Albany in protecting their members from possible flooding. The possible flooding may be caused by the spring ice break-up of the Albany River.
“Members of Kashechewan and Fort Albany First Nations are faced with the possibility of flooding from the spring ice break-up annually,” said Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous services. “Again this year, COVID-19 has added challenges. Being on the land in traditional hunting camps not only protects members from the risk of flooding and COVID-19 but also gives them an opportunity to reconnect with the land and participate in traditional activities and teachings. I commend the leadership for this innovative initiative.”
Following last year’s On-the-Land initiative, an estimated 1,400 residents from Kashechewan and 500 from Fort Albany will self-isolate in their traditional hunting camps for approximately one month. The On-the-Land initiative is a precautionary measure to ensure residents are safe from flooding, and it allows them to reconnect with the land. Without the On-the-Land initiative, residents would normally be evacuated as a precaution during the spring ice break-up, increasing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in host communities.
“On the wishes of the people, Kashechewan First Nation Chief and Council wish to pursue the same initiative again for Spring 2021,” said Chief Leo Friday of Kashechewan First Nation. “As we enter rising cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, we must continue to protect the community.”
Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) approved funding of up to $4.2 million through the Emergency Management Assistance Program to support the purchase of necessary provisions, supplies, and equipment for the On-the-Land initiative. Funding was also approved for the transportation of residents to and from the hunting camps.
“Having the support of the governments allows us, the community, to properly respond to urgent health and safety concerns resulting from annual spring ice break-up and the COVID-19 pandemic while building capacity and remaining aligned with Fort Albany’s traditional values,” said Chief Robert Nakogee of Albany First Nation.
The On-the-Land initiative, which was developed by the communities, includes traditional community food harvesting and gathering, intergenerational knowledge sharing, and Indigenous language education activities in multi-generation family settings.