Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Waiting for the world to change

Well, I'm waiting for Ben to get home from a late day of work. We were supposed to go for dinner this evening at our favorite pub, but I think that's destined to be usurped by an installation at Ben's work. Anyhoo, maybe I'll talk a bit about Kash.

My trip to Kashechewan was interesting. When I got there we drove through the reserve and all of the burned down houses and dilapidated buildings were pointed out to me. There has been a rash of fires this year in Kash and considering that the average number of people is over 10 per 3 bedroom house (I can't remember the actual number, I think it's around 15), the loss of any housing is felt hard by the community. There are houses that people are living in with boarded up windows and tarps instead of doors. There are children who have been burned by water from stoves where there were just so many people in the house everyone else thought that someone was watching the kids. There are people who are now working at the diamond mine that has started up the coast, but they are on for 2 week shifts and are away from home, leaving their kids with relatives or teenagers to fend for themselves. The cost of employment is leaving one's family.

I got to go to a coroner's case in a neighboring reserve. Riding in the back of a NAPS (police) Ford F150 along the ice road was quite an adventure... the back seat is a wooden box that is quite hard on the bum! It was a sad case of a person who was physically and mentally ill in the community and the community supports just weren't there to keep them afloat - they fell through the cracks of the system.

The kids in Kash were very cute. The first language taught to children there is Cree, which is really neat to see. Otitis media seemed to be the illness of the week, really bad OM with perforations and draining puss. We also did some drug and alcohol and grief counseling while we were there. It really became apparent to me that the drug and alcohol problems are very intertwined with the lack of community supports for the grief and depression that are rampant in the community. There has been a lot of loss and a lot of frustration with the inaction of the government. Although there have been many people killed in fires, there is no fire engine. There are many teen suicides that affect close families profoundly. People don't really talk to each other about these tragedies in the community unless they are drunk - which leads to a perpetuating cycle of depression and drinking. A new tradition of talking needs to be established.

Really, solutions for this community need to come from within. Many of them, I think, start with empowering the members of the band to make changes, be home owners, and be proud of who they are an their ideas.


Amy said...

It's such a difficult chain to break or to rearrange. The change needs to come from within the communities and for that to happen they need the majority to work together. But the cycles of substance abuse, violence, and anger are so ingrained in the society that getting that majority is nearly impossible. There are a few places that have developed tribal judicial systems and are using their cultural practices to help their societies but this is happening so slowly. Any fixes the government proposes are dismissed or mistrusted so the only thing they feel they can do it continue to try to give them money and repair the damage from the past.

It must have been a tough trip.

Polly said...

I found it interesting that the same issues prevalent in Australian indidgenous communities appear in Canada. OM + D&A issues are rampant here. Maybe people need to get together an try to work out some ideas, because nothing individual countries are doing seems to have much effect... :(

Not sure about Canada, but indidgenous Australians have a life-expectancy about ?20 years less than the general population.. terrible stuff.