Albert Thunder was just 15 a long time outdated when he initial laid eyes on his potential wife. Then he ran dwelling and requested his mother if they were being linked.

“You want to make positive that you’re not connected to anyone that you like,” laughs Thunder. “That is how shut we are,” claims the now Main of Whitefish Lake 1st Country in northern Alberta.

Main Albert Thunder, 50, shares the memory to demonstrate just how tight knit his group is. There are 2,930 band associates, and about 50 % of them stay on the Whitefish Lake FN reserve situated 126 kilometers northwest of Slave Lake.  

In usual times, folks obtain once a month at the new group hall for a feast. There are skating functions, bingo, and the Atikameg K-12 faculty wherever the junior boys basketball workforce capped off an undefeated period by profitable the league championship at the end of February.

Main Thunder sits front and centre at the Whitefish Lake band employees Xmas bash. It really is a quite limited knit neighborhood with a regular monthly feast at the new neighborhood corridor. (Submitted by Nicole Auger)

But these days the band business, neighborhood corridor and faculty are all shut. Employees at the Health and fitness Centre are filling red buckets with cleaning provides to distribute to all those who need them. Chief Thunder is losing slumber.

“My head is likely 1000 miles an hour, hoping that no virus arrives into our community and making an attempt to determine out, how do we hold this virus out?” claimed Thunder.


Due to the fact March 13th, Thunder and his council have hired supplemental stability and installed roadblocks to prevent everyone who lives off reserve from coming into the neighborhood. 

But Chief Thunder is aware of not anyone is complying with his pleas for isolation and physical distancing. 

This week he did a Fb reside, standing in the snow outside the house the community corridor, pleading with community members to stay house.

How are you going to sense if your mom, your kookum or your mooshum dies simply because of this virus?- Main Albert Thunder

“Bringing the virus to the group is not well worth a visit. How are you likely to feel if your mom, your kookum or your mooshum dies because of that virus?” said Thunder in the video clip.

Thunder understands how tricky physical distancing is for men and women so applied to coming alongside one another.

“We’ve acquired a group seeking to figure out how to make certain that we stop men and women from going stir ridiculous,” said Thunder. “When you happen to be just isolated and you might be bored, that is when folks get into trouble.” 

Band team are providing psychological assistance by teleconference. They have also started an on-line talent display for users of the Initial Nation.  

“When I noticed that on the internet expertise display, it produced me experience happy,” explained Thunder. “Even while it really is straightforward, it can be big. The creativity on this reserve is just just astounding.”

But Thunder problems about individuals battling with drug and liquor addictions, and fears the challenges could develop and endanger the community.

“I only depend probably 5 or six properties that are just defiant,” reported Thunder. “These younger people who are just transient and back and forth from community to community…I have to be a minor bit far more compassionate to them because their addictions are probably a very little bit stronger than, than the concern of this virus which is not in this article.”  

Then there are persons who are living off reserve who want to come residence and isolate with family members.

“We do not have enough housing by now, and some individuals are trying to move again listed here,” stated Thunder.  “That is really frightening, simply because it only takes a single and it will wipe out a generation. To lose an elder in Whitefish would be just devastating for me.”

Improved safety

On Thursday Main Thunder and his council issued a band council resolution that involved new security actions created to enforce physical distancing and hold outsiders away.  

Only persons who stay on the reserve will be permitted in.  Security can now halt and lookup cars and trucks to make confident people are not currently being smuggled in. 

The new measures also condition that if stability catches anybody out immediately after lockdown or smuggling anybody in, they will commence a Fb are living so absolutely everyone can see who is not complying with the new principles. 

Chief Thunder is observing COVID-19 arrive nearer and closer to Whitefish Lake Initial Nation. There are energetic cases in Large Prairie and Slave Lake. The first individual in Northern Alberta to die was 30-12 months-outdated Shawn Auger from Grouard. (Bridget Forbes/CBC)

Meanwhile Thunder sees the virus moving nearer to the local community.  There are lively instances in Higher Prairie and Slave Lake, the place local community customers frequently go for groceries.  

The to start with man or woman to die from COVID-19 in Northern Alberta, 30-calendar year-previous Shawn Auger, was married to Jennifer Auger who is originally from Whitefish Lake 1st Nation. Jennifer is the goddaughter of the Chief’s mom and he considers her his little sister.

“We are not able to even go to the funeral to say goodbye to the young guy,” said Thunder.  Normally a dying in the group would be adopted by a 3 working day wake, where by individuals would sit with the entire body close to the clock in advance of at last declaring goodbye.  

He appreciates the new security steps is not going to be common with anyone on the First Nation.

“I am heading to do no matter what it requires,” said Thunder. “Council is on my aspect and the bulk of the local community is on my side that we are heading to do whichever it will take to protect our group.”

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