By Victoria Gray
SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND – A year ago the provincial government was begging people to self-isolate for 14 days to flatten the curve and Six Nations had no cases of COVID-19.
Now, it’s March 2021 and Six Nations has 373 cases, with more than a 150 of those accumulating in the last few weeks.
There are currently another 370 people in isolation waiting for test results.
The Six Nations Elected Council has shut down their departments for two weeks as cases have remained at least eight times higher than Toronto, based on population size.
The community has been in the Black Level Alert, lockdown since January 4, 2021.
Elected chief Mark Hill pleaded with the community to cooperate with COVID-19 restrictions that include shutting down non-essential businesses and restricting essential business hours from noon to 6 p.m. in a video released on SNEC’s Facebook page on March 4.
“A clear message is that we are in a crisis,” he said. “Our COVID-19 cases have spiked rapidly over the past couple of months and we are at an all-time high.”
There are currently five people in hospital and four community members have died since last March and across Ontario cities have begun opening up, but not at Six Nations.
“We are scared that if we do not get this under control and stop the spread we will see more deaths and serious illness in our community,” Hill said.
Hill said health officials believe the community spread is from community members disregarding isolation and quarantine orders and implored them to follow medical advice. At least four large events over as many weeks in the community with hundreds of people in attendance didn’t help numbers.
On March 10, 2020 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic causing panic to spread across the province.
March 10 2020. A year ago hoarding began with grocery shelves empting of critical items, from toilet paper, to disinfectants, protective equipment and medical supplies. The stress the pandemic and lockdowns put on the nation’s supply chain became real. On March 12, 2020 Six Nations Elected Council declared a state of emergency. Ontario logged 17 new cases that day bringing the total to 59
COVID-19 cases. Canada has counted 150 cases.
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council sent representatives to the newly created Emergency Control Group that would oversee the pandemic and keeping the community safe. The group included HCCC and SNEC representatives along with emergency services. It was the first time since the failure of land talks in 2009 the SNEC and HCCC would join forces to help the community.
Hill said at the time it wasn’t a matter of if, but when the virus made it into the community.
“As Onkwehonwe we are a people of resilience. This is not the first time we have come face to face with adversity. I am confident we will get through this together,” he told the Spectator.
On March 13, 2020 the provincial government orders all publicly funded schools to close from March 14 to April 5 to stop the spread of the virus. A later decision meant schools are not set to re-open until at least September 2021.
On March 17 Ontario declared a state of emergency. That day 17 new cases were reported, there were 189 total cases and one death and community transmissions are popping up more regularly. On March 5, 2021 Ontario reported 1,250 new cases and 22 new deaths. There have been a total of 306,007 cases and 7,046 deaths since March 2020.
Lori David-Hill director of health services said health care providers are tired in the video released March 4, 2020.
“Our entire community needs to be aware of the concerning level of exhaustion our teams of frontline workers are facing,” she said. “Many of our front line workers have not stopped working since the onset of this pandemic. Most working and paying attention for seven days a week for almost 365 days straight to protect our community.”
March 17, 2020 12 Six Nations firefighters test negative after an exposure scare.
Six Nations still had zero cases.
On March 19 the first cases are reported in Brantford and Hamilton.
March 24 SNEC converts the community centre into a testing and treatment facility.
March 28 Six Nations reports its first case of the virus and barricades are erected to close the territory to surrounding communities.
March 31 there are three cases on Six Nations, one of which is a Six Nations Police officer who had self-isolated since March 17.
April 8 the first COVID-19 related death is announced on Six Nations, since then three more have perished.
The community was initially supportive of social distancing measures and found creative ways to run community events while keeping each other safe, SNEC cancelled Bread and Cheese Day in May, but delivered loaves of bread and cheese to residents over the Victoria Day long weekend and the weekend after.
“When all of this is over, and after we have prevented as many deaths as possible, we will hold each other close and celebrate each other. But right now, we need to show our continued commitment to stopping the spread and do everything in our power to ensure we do not lose any more lives,” Hill said about the deliveries.
On October 5 The Six Nations Community Food Bank ran its first drive through pick-up for Thanksgiving where 400 cars pulled up to receive a turkey, ham and all the trimmings. They were also given face masks, beans, lentils and recipes to use them.
On December 9 Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine and on December 23 approved the Moderna vaccine. More recently the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved. Dec., 2020 the Six Nations Community Food Bank and Ontario Works delivered Christmas baskets, household items, non-perishable food items and more for Christmas.
Jan 1 2021. Six Nations and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations celebrate the first baby of the New Year with the birth of Adele Melba Grace Sault. Her parents Shelby Smoke and dad Jesse Sault said despite COVID-19 friends, family and their midwife have all come together, separately to help the family.
March 5, 2021.
Throughout the year there have been drive-by birthday processions, graduations and much more. Families celebrated family occasions and milestones over Zoom, hoping the pandemic would end, hoping vaccinations were the light at the end of the tunnel.
On January 9, 2021 community vaccinations began for long-term care staff and residents.
SNEC approved a vaccination matrix on Feb. 19, 2021 and started an online vaccine registration form shortly after. Vaccinations for those in that priority group started on March 4, 2021.
Health officials are cautioning residents that the vaccine is not a fix-all for the virus, it is only meant to lessen severe and deadly outcomes for people.
Health Director Lori Davis-Hill, a year later told the Six Nations community again health care workers are tired, irritable, concerned, wondering where the energy will come from to carry on.
“Our teams are also feeling helpless, as if all their hard work and dedication means nothing to those members that continue to act against public health advice. Yes, I’m speaking to those members who are choosing to ignore critical self-isolation measures. This is putting your community, our community at risk,” she said.
March 3 2021 the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council issues a statement telling community members to stay home and to be kind to each other, help each other.
We want to thank the individuals that have carried on our ceremonies up to this point in time. Maintaining the wellness and sovereignty of our community through our traditional practices. We recognize that the level of stress on these individuals has been tremendous. We also, need to think of their well-being moving forward and we are now temporarily removing that responsibility until we have fully passed through this pandemic. That means, we leave it to the individual Longhouses how to proceed without gathering a crowd to conduct ceremonies.”
March 4 2021 – Six Nations Elected Council closes all band operations, only essential services are available after Six Nations numbers grew by 57 over the past seven days to 114 active cases, but have begun to drop with one new case reported March 5th, but those hospitalized grew to four, with 370 in isolation awaiting tests and sadly another death was recorded bringing the total deaths due to COVID-19 to four. There are 383 total cases.
The message a year later hasn’t changed.