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Stoney Nakoda Nation declares state of local emergency

“We do not have all of the answers to all of the questions yet ... We are resilient people and together, we will work to keep us all healthy and safe."
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Stoney Nakoda Wesley Chief Clifford Poucette addresses the Nation with Chiniki Chief Aaron Young (left) and Bearspaw Chief Darcy Dixon (right) on March 17, as the three Chiefs declared a local State of Emergency. FACEBOOK

STONEY NAKODA – The Stoney Nakoda Nation has declared a state of local emergency amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The First Nation is located between Canmore and Calgary and is home to three bands: Bearspaw, Wesley and Chiniki. Chiefs from the three bands took to social media Tuesday (March 17) to declare the state of local emergency. 

“The Stoney Nakoda Chiefs have been gathering with our elected officials and administration teams to begin measures to help protect the health and wellness of our communities," Bearspaw Chief Darcy Dixon said in a video. 
"The wellness of our communities and your families are our top priority. With this in mind, today the Stoney Nakoda Nation declared a state of local emergency."

COVID-19, a new coronavirus, hit Alberta on March 5, starting with two presumptive cases and jumping to 146 confirmed cases across the province in a mere two weeks. The first death from the virus was announced on Thursday (March 19). 

In line with neighbouring communities – earlier this week Canmore closed popular recreation facilities, Banff declared a local state of emergency, and the MD of Bighorn suspended all official meetings for 30 days – Chief Dixon said the declaration will allow the Nation’s Emergency Management Team greater access to resources to support the community.

“We continue to support our Health Centre and our Emergency Management Agency,” Dixon said.

Chiniki Chief Aaron Young also spoke to the Nation emphasizing the dangers of the virus.

“This virus is very dangerous and is spreading quickly," Young said

"Common signs of coronavirus infection can include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Fortunately, we have no known cases of the virus in any of our communities."

The province also declared a public health emergency Tuesday. The first positive COVID-19 case in the Canmore region was identified by Alberta Health Services (AHS) on Wednesday (March 18) morning when AHS released geospatial statistics on its website. There are currently 101 cases in the Calgary zone. 

“This is not something to be taken lightly – that chain of transmission can cause deaths, ICU admissions, hospitalizations. We’re all in this together,” Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a press conference Thursday. 

The Stoney Nakoda Nation is home to approximately 4,000-5,000 residents with homes spanning from Cochrane's town limits to the MD of Bighorn, as well as in Eden Valley where some Bearspaw band members reside. The Morley townsite, located between the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 1A, hosts several services to the residents, including a health centre, post office, an elementary school, high school, youth centre and gas station with a convenience store. 

Some businesses have announced temporary closures, while others have reduced hours, including the Stoney Education Authority and Morley Post Office.

“We commit to providing regular updates and sharing with you the best information we have as we receive it," Young said. "There are many conversations on social media. Not all of them are true. We continue to work with the government and will share trusted information."

Nation residents have been asked to take precautions in the upcoming weeks, including being asked to avoid unnecessary travel and to use the online AHS COVID-19 assessment tool if anyone is feeling unwell.

“We do not have all of the answers to all of the questions yet. We can tell you that a team of experts has been formed here in our community to help us navigate this global event,” Wesley Chief Clifford Poucette said during the address.

“We are resilient people and together, we will work to keep us all healthy and safe.”

Stoney Education Authority 

Since the March 15 provincial announcement prohibiting student attendance in schools, the Stoney Education Authority announced its local schools will be closed to the students until further notice. 

“These are unprecedented times for the Stoney Education Authority (SEA) and all school boards across the province," wrote SEA superintendent Bill Shade in a statement. 

"The administration at SEA wants to assure you that we will take a thoughtful and responsive approach to plan the continuity of learning for students and services to our families. Already, administration and teachers at SEA are working together to ensure a common and consistent approach to learning continuity throughout the Nakoda communities.”

In a recent update, the SEA announced it will be sending out educational packages to students and families via Nakoda Bus Lines starting April 20. 

If residents have any questions, they can contact the office at 403-881-3102.

Families are also encouraged to go to the SEA school website and Facebook pages for updated information. 

Morley Post Office

The staff at the Morley Post Office announced reduced hours from 8 a.m. to noon daily giving residents time to receive parcels and registered mail. After noon, the front glass gate will be locked, but the access to the mail boxes will remain open to the public until 4 p.m. 

“If you are sick or under self-isolation, please arrange for someone to pick up these items in your place” post office officials wrote in a statement.

“We are also taking extra steps and ensuring that we do an hourly disinfecting of the post office that the public frequent ... the mailboxes, doors, keyboards, customer service desk etc.”

Eagle’s Nest Stoney Family Centre

The family shelter remains open and will continue to provide crisis support to women and children experiencing intimate partner violence, staff said in statement. 

“We know that in stressful times, family violence can increase. Eagle’s Nest is working closely with Stoney Health Services, the Nation and with all levels of government to ensure that we can continue to provide essential crisis services to women and children experiencing violence,” the release read. 

Stoney Telelcom 

As a safety precaution, Stoney Nakoda Telecom operations supervisor announced all new Internet and satellite installations will be suspended from March 19 to April 1 with service calls to remain in effect. 

“For the safety of our staff, we ask that you reconsider re-scheduling non essential service calls if you or someone in your home is feeling ill. We will continue to monitor developments across the nation, and we will make necessary decisions as needed … I’d like to personally thank you for your continued support and patience as we navigate this dynamic situation, which is affecting all our lives in ways we never thought possible,” Cheyenne Wesley, operations supervisor wrote in a letter to the Nation. 

Morley Community Gym

In a statement form the Stoney Education Authority, officials announced all Morley Community Gym rentals that have not been approved by the Nakoda Emergency Management are cancelled. Anyone who has a rental booked and wanted to reschedule to a later date is asked to contact Cleavon at 403-881-3102.

“The Stoney Education Authority can either hold prepaid rental fees and despot for future use, or requests for a full refund can be made via email or phone call,” the statement read. 

For more information go to stoneynakodanation.com



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Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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