Responding to COVID-19 in Indigenous Communities

Amy Abbink and Titus Semple with the air shipment to Kingfisher Lake
Amy Abbink and Titus Semple with the air shipment to Kingfisher Lake

News from PWRDF

In consultation with Archbishop Mark MacDonald and the Primate, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, PWRDF is forwarding an in-Canada emergency grant of $50,000 to support northern Indigenous communities responding to recent COVID surges in northern Manitoba.

The Indigenous People’s Alliance of Manitoba-North (IPAM-N) will use the funds to purchase and distribute face masks and supplies for cleaning and disinfecting. The items will be delivered to Sherridon, Pikwitonei, Thicket Portage, Grand Rapids, Wabowden, Cormorant, Easterville, Leaf Rapids, Lynn Lake, Moose Lake, Brochet and Thompson.

The needed supplies were identified by IPAM-N members, including Freda Lepine, who is also a member of PWRDF’s Indigenous Partner Advisory Committee.

“It’s a big thing,” says Lepine of the $50,000 from her home in Wabowden. “We stretch our dollar. We don’t want to help just one community, but this allows us to get cleaning supplies to many communities.”

Throughout the pandemic IPAM has been supporting several communities with food hampers, educational supplies, and delivering meals to those who are shut-in. They have also made it possible for food to be harvested and for younger people to learn about this cultural tradition, which also plays a vital part in food security. “We were able to provide funds for gas for hunters to get out and harvest six caribou which were then shared with the community,” says Lepine.

Lepine notes that IPAM may be able to include some of these cleaning supplies with food hamper deliveries, in order to maximize efficiency.

These four photographs are from the truck shipment to Bearskin Lake

PWRDF is in conversation with other communities in need, most notably Tataskweyak Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba, which declared a state of emergency due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. At midnight January 7, the community of 3,000 went into lockdown, said Bishop Larry Beardy on Facebook. “Our health staff are tired and overwhelmed,” wrote Beardy. There are only two nurses at the health centre on five-hour shifts and two front line responders doing testing. “The cases are exploding in our communities. Please pray for the sick, and all in the communities.”

Bishop Beardy is the Indigenous Suffragan Bishop of Mishamikoweesh’s Northern Manitoba Area Mission. PWRDF Executive Director Will Postma has spoken with Bishop Beardy as well as with Bishop Geoff Woodcroft of the Diocese of Rupert’s Land about an additional emergency response that is being finalized. Goods and supplies for communities in northern Manitoba would be purchased in Winnipeg and then transported to the north. Bishop Woodcroft noted supplies purchased with PWRDF funds would add to goods and donations already received by the Diocese.

While temperatures plunge to 30 and 40 degrees below zero, please keep these communities in your prayers as they try to self-isolate and return to good health.

How can you help?

To make a donation to this response, go to the PWRDF website at and click on the tab for “Give Today.” You may also donate by phone at 416-822-9083 or leave a voicemail toll-free at 1-866-308-7973 and we will return your call, or mail your cheque to PWRDF, 80 Hayden, 3rd floor, Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 3G2. Please mark Indigenous COVID in the memo field.

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