Deh Gáh Got'îê First Nation chief recommends community checkpoint

The chief of the Deh Gáh Got'îê First Nation near Fort Providence, N.W.T, is recommending his community go into self-isolation to prevent any cases of COVID-19.

'There's no real way to stop [COVID-19] right now except to isolate as much as we can,' chief says

Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge wants to limit the amount of travel in and out of Deh Gáh Got'îê First Nation by establishing a checkpoint at the community's sole entry point. (Submitted by Joachim Bonnetrouge)

The chief of the Deh Gáh Got'îê First Nation near Fort Providence, N.W.T, is recommending that his community set up a checkpoint to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. 

In an email Friday, Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge asked his band council to isolate the community from unnecessary travel until further notice. He recommended establishing a checkpoint, to be monitored 24/7, near the entrance to the community, off of Highway 3.

"Right now our community is just too wide-open," Bonnetrouge said. "It's just too much coming and going."

The First Nation would still welcome grocery delivery trucks coming from Alberta and the territory's South Slave region. 

The email comes just three days after the K'atl'odeeche First Nation near Hay River, N.W.T., announced a full lockdown of its reserve until further notice. Checkpoints there are limiting entry to band members and essential delivery trucks.

As of Friday at 1:00 p.m. there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Northwest Territories and 275 tests had come back negative, according to the territorial Department of Health. 

There's no real way to stop [COVID-19] right now except to isolate as much as we can.- Joachim Bonnetrouge, chief of Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation

The Deh Gáh Got'îê First Nation is home to between 800-900 people, according to Bonnetrouge.

The chief said he's considering keeping a list of band members that have travelled to and from the community in recent weeks in order to ask them to self-isolate for 14 days. 

"There's no real way to stop [COVID-19] right now except to isolate as much as we can," he said.

Highway 3 between Yellowknife and Fort Providence in March 2018. Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge has recommended establishing a checkstop, to be monitored 24/7, near the Fort Providence's airport just off the highway. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Like other First Nations in the territory, the Deh Gáh Got'îê First Nation is also encouraging its members to get out on the land. Bonnetrouge said they're looking for additional funding from the territorial or federal governments to support that. 

Bonnetrouge said the First Nation began talks about responding to the COVID-19 pandemic a couple of weeks ago. He said it was hard to engage with elders at first because few of them knew about the pandemic, but community members have been going door to door to speak with them.

"There's a lot of fear— fear of the unknown," he said. 

Bonnetrouge said the First Nation does not have any COVID-19 test kits. Community members have to travel to Hay River or Yellowknife to get tested.

'Only essential travellers should be coming in'

Dene Nation Chief Norman Yakeleya said First Nations should do whatever it takes to keep their members safe.

Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya says First Nations should do whatever it takes to keep their members safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Randall Mackenzie/CBC)

The Dene Nation will be providing communities with a survey on what additional resources they might need. 

Yakeleya also recommended that the border between the N.W.T and Alberta be closed, during a press conference Friday

"Only essential travellers should be coming in," he said. 

The main entry point to the Northwest Territories from Alberta is Highway 1, just south of Enterprise. 

Yakeleya also said the territory should ask everyone where they have travelled — including Grande Prairie and Edmonton, Alta., where several cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed. 

Yakeleya said he has been in contact with First Nations leaders in Alberta and Saskatchewan about the flow of their members across borders.