Indigenous woman protests poor housing conditions on First Nations
After years without water, Alma Kakikepinace camps out in Sagkeeng First Nation hunger strike
"Until I die."
That's how long an Indigenous woman says she is committed to going without food while living out of a makeshift camp in protest of poor housing conditions on First Nations in Canada.
Alma Kakikepinace's health isn't in great shape. The 53-year-old lives with physical pain, muscle cramps and vision problems associated with diabetes, and yet she is determined to go hungry and live in chilly outdoor conditions on Sagkeeng First Nation to prove a point.
"She's taking a stand. This isn't tolerable," her close friend Robert Peters said. "She's not alone."
Four years ago, Kakikepinace, who works as an addictions counsellor, moved to her ancestral First Nation of Sagkeeng, located about 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
In that time, she has lived "without water, without a toilet" in part of a trailer that was blown from its foundation by a tornado a few years ago and was never repaired, Peters said.
"It's filled with black mold and she's been getting sick and she can't live in there anymore," Peters said, adding Kakikepinace resorted to going to the bathroom in the woods these past four years.
"She's been waiting for housing from the band, promised over and over that they would give her an adequate place to live."
Kakikepinace's demands seem simple enough: she just wants a dry, habitable place to live, Peters said.
"That's all she's asking for," Peters said. She's been promised for years the next available house will be hers, but it's over and over and she's at the end of her rope."
Sunday marked the fifth day since Kakikepinace began her "survival campsite" hunger protest.
Temperatures in the community near the Winnipeg River are getting colder each fall day. Peters said he and others are trying to help Kakikepinace keep warm with fires outside her tent.
Peters said Kakikepinace's case shows that housing issues on First Nations aren't limited to remote, northern communities.
"This is 20 minutes from Victoria Beach, where people go to their high end cottages," Peters said. "She hasn't had running water in four years…. This isn't the Canada that anyone signed up for."
Peters said band officials have asked Kakikepinace to take down the camp and again promised to provide her with a home.
"Her response was, 'I will believe that when I see that,'" Peters said. "This is a protest camp. They don't like that. They don't want to be responsible for that. She's a very loving, incredibly generous person.
"She's an addictions counsellor, she's loved by many in the community, but because she's not connected politically she has no influence on chief and council."
Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Derrick Henderson told CBC News Sunday night that he last met with Kakikepinace on Friday and wasn't aware of the hunger strike and camp out.
With files from Courtney Rutherford