‘No gatherings in fish shacks’ – local First Nations respond to COVID

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

First Nations around Lesser Slave Lake have various responses to COVID-19. Some have closed schools to in-class learning. Bigstone Cree Nation has once again updated its COVID bylaws.


On Jan. 11, Bigstone and the M.D. of Opportunity announced an update list of bylaws for Wabasca, Sandy Lake, Calling Lake, and Chipewyan Lake. These include a curfew and road monitoring stations.

The video and letter posted on Facebook included, “Absolutely NO social gatherings of any type are permitted. For example: no birthday parties, no bingo parties, no card games, no church or cultural services, or no gatherings in fish shacks etc.”


Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council Education Authority (KTCEA) remains closed to in-class instruction, says a KTCEA letter dated January 7. This decision will be reassessed on January 28. The Education authority is supporting parents with internet, laptops, and learning packages.

KTCEA runs six schools, in Loon River, Woodland Cree, Lubicon Lake Band, Whitefish Lake and Peerless Trout First Nations. These First Nations are north of Lesser Slave Lake and are geographically within the M.D. or Opportunity (Peerless Trout) and Northern Sunrise County (the other four).

The Opportunity and Bigstone announcement says, “we can’t close the schools, but if possible we ask that parents and families keep children home for the next two weeks to limit the spread in our towns. OPK [Oski Pasikoniwew Kamik (Bigstone Community School)] school has cancelled all in-person classes until further notice.”

Swan River First Nation is south of the middle of Lesser Slave Lake.

The most recent Swan River First Nation COVID-19 update on its website was from January 12. Swan River office, daycare and consultation had reduced hours. Swan River School was open for in-class learning.

Active cases

Opportunity and Bigstone report COVID-19 numbers quite often. The Jan. 20 update said there were 59 cases in Opportunity and Bigstone. Of these 14 were on reserve – 13 in Wabasca and one in Calling Lake. The remaining 45 were off reserve and could be in: Wabasca, Sandy Lake, Calling Lake, Chipewyan Lake, Red Earth, Peerless Lake and Trout Lake.

On January 19, Peerless Trout First Nation posted an AHS letter on Facebook, which said that the number of active cases had decreased to two. In total Peerless Trout had 25 cases – two active and 23 recovered.

On January 19, Whitefish First Nation posted a COVID-19 update on social media. Whitefish had 26 active cases. Three of these people were in hospital, which was one more than the Jan. 18 update. In total, Whitefish had 107 cases – 26 active and 81 recovered.

On January 18, Loon River First Nation posted on social media. It said, the community had six new cases and four new recoveries. These brought total active cases to 11. Of these, two people were in hospital.

Two days earlier, the Loon total was 32 – 12 active and 20 recovered.

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