Northlands First Nation, Lac Brochet, Manitoba
April 6th, 2018 – Report by Beverly Hadland, Crossroads Ambassador to First Peoples
March 14-17, 2018 – I was so pleased in early March to receive an invitation from Chief Antsanen and Council to visit Northlands First Nation, the most northern community in Manitoba. It is a fly-in Denesuline community with a population of just over 720. The caribou, a main part of their diet, did not pass nearby this year making the search for food more difficult. The annual hunt usually supplies enough meat to fill freezers until the next hunting season. The only store in the community is so expensive that only teachers and nurses, thanks to a living allowance, and the few residents with jobs, can afford healthy food. Crossroads joined with many churches in Saskatchewan (including Indigenous), as well as other humanitarian organizations to raise funds to fly food there in January. Thanks to your prayers and the participation of many, over $25,000 worth of food was shipped into Lac Brochet. Unfortunately, that is at best, temporary.
As ambassador, I seek to learn how the body of Christ can help in moving this community to self-determination and sustainability. I am happy to report that the food distribution went well. Single moms and vulnerable elders were blessed as intended.
Northlands First Nation is moving ahead with projects to improve their community in a variety of ways. A few years ago, several gardens were started. The goal this summer is to increase their number. This is one of the first communities to change from diesel fuel to clean energy. A farm of one thousand solar energy panels is nearing completion. When up and running they will provide power, first to community buildings, then to all the homes. Work is currently underway on a wood chip biomass system to heat those same buildings. The project is a sight to behold.
Petite Casimir Memorial School has a breakfast program for their 250 K-12 students that needs some help with healthy food choices. Crossroads is researching ways to acquire less costly rice, oats, flour, baking powder, sugar, lard, tea and coffee. These basic staples are, at this time, simply too expensive. It is cheaper to buy processed food than healthy alternatives.
I find it sad that, in Canada, we throw away $31 million worth of good food yearly, food that people in the north could really use. One of the largest expenses is transportation. Put simply, it is not cheap.
To give you an idea, True North Aid paid $1,600 to truck seven pallets of cereal and crackers from Ontario to Thompson, MB. Then, to fly that same food fifty minutes from Thompson to Lac Brochet, costs another $3,682!
There are other needs. Augustine Tssessaze, leader of the youth development programs, has asked for roller blades with helmets and knee pads. He would like to use the arena in the summer time.
Lastly, an addiction recovery support group would love to do beadwork to sell, thereby creating a cottage industry.
Housing is always a problem as only a few new homes are built each year. Houses with two or three families living together top the priority list but it is a slow process. The winter road is open just two to three months each year.
Crossroads is looking at ways to support this community in the short term while, at the same time, looking at long term plans for sustainability.