First Peoples Voice - Update from Neskantaga

First Peoples Voices | Update from Neskantaga

Written by Bev Hadland, Ambassador to the First Peoples

I just returned from four days in Neskantaga in northern Ontario, a fly in community of 313 Oje-Cree. My first thought to share is – where do I start?

On the very positive side, it was my privilege to stay with Theresa Moonias, an elder in the community. She invited me to visit and become familiar with living conditions as they are in the north.

Like others in Neskantaga, Theresa is waiting to move. Among other problems with her current home, the foundation has partially collapsed and pushed fully through the drywall. Other than a stack of lumber sitting on some land there is no real evidence of new home construction.

The cost of just basic food items is four times our costs and never on sale. There is only one store in the community. A litre of orange juice is $10.99; a head of lettuce $7.09; a pound of Maple Bacon demands $14.00 or $12.00 for the no-name brand.

Tap water is undrinkable. Neskantaga has been on a boil water order for 22 years, the longest boil order in Canada.

  • Theresa Moonais

  • Foundation collapse

  • Bathroom mildew

  • Orange juice price

  • Lettuce price

  • Fruitloops price

  • Water treatment plant

  • Drinking water carried to house

  • Bannock

  • Chapel built by the band sits empty

  • Theresa takes care of chapel

  • Radio station with no bathroom

  • Norman Moonais DJ

I walked nine minutes to the water treatment plant, filled a large bottle with water and walked back in fifteen minutes just to experience what these families have to go through on a daily basis.

There is one nursing station that serves the community. Nurses live there and work five weeks on and three weeks away. A doctor comes once a month for one day.

There are no dental visits as there is no dental coverage.

I was saddened by the number of children with cavities or stainless-steel crowns. Many adults have lost numerous teeth. Some have lost all.

There is a good elementary school with a playground, two basketball courts and an arena but no high school. That forces younger teens to move to Sioux Lookout or Thunder Bay to get their high school education. Being away from their family for the school year causes feelings of isolation. Too many are bullied in the cities. Just read the newspapers especially in Thunder Bay.

Finally, there is a Band owned church but no one ministers there. The last time someone came to minister was a year ago. The highlight of my trip was sitting in the chapel with Theresa and her cousin Daniel Moonias. We sang and prayed for each other and for the community.

There is a lot of need and a lot of work that lies ahead. But praise God there is much we can do.

I am praying that God shows us exactly where to start. Remember that the most important thing to this community is a relationship with us and that means regular visits. From these visits will grow results, healing and restoration!

To be beneficial to this community, Crossroads’ efforts must respond to the pressing needs of those we wish to help. They can best prioritize their needs. They have, for example, asked for clothing, Ojibway Bibles and food. Accordingly, three boxes of gently used clothing have already been shipped. A dozen Bibles are on order and twenty-one additional boxes are going as soon as we can fund transportation costs.

I am working with True North Aid to determine what food can be sent up north to start a food bank.

Next, I will meet with numerous service organizations that minister to the First People. We must ascertain how we can get them to Neskantaga to work with the community in every area of life . . . water, food, clothing, education, medical, dental, sports, housing, arts, music, business, never forgetting the spiritual needs of the people.

Contact me if you would like to be a part of this pioneer work, experiencing the longest boil-order community (22 years) be transformed by God and His people.

There is a place for you in this task. Please pray along with me. Your help, in any way, is vitally important.

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