'Namgis First Nation elder dies of coronavirus

Apr 26 2020, 9:07 am

An Indigenous elder who died of a COVID-19 infection this weekend was a member of the ‘Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay, BC, a doctor in the community says.

The elder was the first person from a remote Indigenous community in BC to die from the virus, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at her Saturday afternoon press briefing.

Elders in First Nations communities “are our culture and history keepers,” Henry said, getting visibly emotional. “When they become ill and when they die, we all lose. And I want you to know that we feel that collective loss today.”

Henry did not identify which community the elder was from, but Dr. Dan Cutfeet with the ‘Namgis Health Centre confirmed in a Facebook video post it was a ‘Namgis elder who died.

“We lost a community member today,” Cutfeet said. “We’re thinking of family. We’re thinking of friends in this time. We’re praying for you.”

He went on to say these are challenging times, and thanked everyone in the community for practicing physical distancing, self-isolating when they need to, and wearing masks to protect others.

“Great work,” he said. “I think everyone’s tired, and ready for their old lives to resume.”

He added they’re testing “anyone and everyone” in the community who has a fever, cough, or other respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms.