Wiikwemkoong has set up Buzwah checkpoint

WIIKWEMKOONG – Chief and council of the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territories passed a band resolution last week allocating the resources necessary to institute a data collection checkpoint located near the entrance to the reserve. Construction of a necessary road widening for the checkpoint was well underway at the boundary line in Buzwah on the weekend and it was hoped that the site would be in operation by Tuesday.

“We are just waiting on safety equipment,” noted Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier on Monday afternoon. The chief cited lighting as a key example of the equipment needed to help keep band staff at the checkpoint safe while they collect information.

“We want to do what we can to help protect our community and contain the spread so that it does not overwhelm our medical services,” said Ogimaa Peltier.

To that end, he explained that barriers would be put in place in order to facilitate the slowing down of traffic and enable the monitoring of the flow in and out of the community. A security firm has been engaged to assist with the checkpoint and Ogimaa Peltier requested the assistance and patience of community members “as we take these necessary steps to ensure the health and well-being of our community members.”

The checkpoint will collect data that it is hoped will assist the community’s health workers to better understand who is going in and out of the community and to assist in gaining a better understanding of the risk factors in order to limit exposure within the community.

“People are supposed to be limiting themselves to travel only when it is absolutely necessary,” said Ogimaa Peltier, referencing the steady stream of traffic that could be heard travelling the road behind him.

“This is a necessary step for us,” he said,  noting that educating the community members was a key consideration. “A lot of people don’t have access to social media,” he said, adding that the checkpoint will also serve an important function in providing vital educational services to community on how they can protect themselves during the pandemic.

Meanwhile the community of Zhiibaahaasing First Nation has instituted a community lockdown with a gate at the entrance and Whitefish River First Nation has shut down its businesses in an effort to slow the pandemic spread.