There has been much deserved praise heaped on provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and the provincial government, for the handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
And indeed, though this paper and others have been critical of the province for not releasing more specific numbers and locations of COVID-19 outbreaks (knowledge is power), the actual government restrictions put in place and its ability to shift and adapt has been worthy of the international public praise received, including a recent story in the New York Times.
But another Squamish local government has been quietly helping its community, person-by-person — the Squamish Nation council and staff.
The Nation moved quickly to tell outsiders to avoid reserve lands on March 23, thus protecting its residents.
The www.squamish.net website has been updated continuously with the latest offers of help and information.
On the site and the Nation’s social media you can also find cool dual Squamish language and English signs that say things like “Wash your hands” and “Only stay home.”
There was the distribution of 1,000 packages, containing items such as cleaning supplies and toilet paper for the 700 or so households on reserves or available for pick-up at the band office.
Also, there were grocery deliveries to elders and calls to all of them to see what needs they had.
So far, the Nation has spent about $500,000 on the emergency needs of the community, Squamish Nation spokesman Coun. Khelsilem told the paper last week.
The Nation also moved quickly to provide Member Support Services, financial aid for those not helped by other means during this pandemic.
“Our staff has been reassigned to help some of our members who may need help filling out applications for some of the various relief programs being offered by the provincial and federal government,” Khelsilem added.
Even some of the Nation’s most staunch critics say that many Nation’s Ayas Men Men Child and Family Services staff are doing a great job with such things as distributing lunches to members.
(Though one member told The Squamish Chief she gives kudos to the employees of the Nation, but questions why the council is getting paid the same wage while at home, so praise isn’t universal.)
The Nation put out a risk and needs assessment to the entire community to identify what more the Nation could be doing.
“Just to get a sense of where we should be diverting resources, and how much,” Khelsilem said.
So while the Squamish Nation may not make the international news for it, when it comes to the wraparound care of its citizens, the Nation deserves our praise.