Keewaywin First Nation woman raises over $20K to help neighbours in Bearskin Lake

Rain Harper from Keewaywin First Nation began a donation drive for Bearskin Lake First Nation and within a few days raised over $10,000, to be matched by band administration.

Bearskin Lake First Nation battling COVID-19 outbreak

Rain Harper began a donation drive in her community for Bearskin Lake First Nation and has raised over $10,000, which is being matched by band administration. (Rain Harper/Facebook)

A Keewaywin First Nation woman is taking the initiative to help out a neighbouring community in crisis, raising over $10,000 for the people of Bearskin Lake as they face a COVID-19 outbreak.

Rain Harper, 22, said while she might be shy, she has a big heart and finds happiness in helping others. 

"I felt that if someone started a donation drive, people would be more willing to help out the people of Bearskin Lake because there's someone in the community who opened the door for them," she said. 

Keewaywin is an Oji-Cree community about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont., and 150 kilometres southwest of Bearskin Lake First Nation.

Harper said she has a group chat with friends from surrounding communities, including one from Bearskin Lake who has kept the group updated on their situation. 

In the last two weeks nearly half of the approximately 460 people who live there have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Several First Nations in the region have been raising money and donating supplies to the community.

Harper began the donation drive by posting on a Keewaywin Facebook page but the majority of the donations came when Harper was invited to the local radio station to host.

Within a few days over $10,000 was raised and the band administration said it would be doubling the amount from the donation drive. 

Keewaywin Chief George Kakekagumick said Harper had approached him to ask if doing a fundraiser would be alright. 

"She took the initiative to start this," he said.

He said everybody in the community is proud of Harper. 

Derek Fox, grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), which represents 49 First Nations in northern Ontario including Bearskin Lake and Keewaywin, said they are similar communities in population size and in the challenges they face.

He said all of the NAN communities have been hit hard by the pandemic and that Harper's efforts speak to a larger trend of NAN youth stepping up. 

"We see a lot of change occurring amongst our young people," he said.

"They are not just our future, they are also our leaders of today." 


Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.