News and Comment
Turtle Island Native Network
Gilford Island, September 25, 2004
(CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS)
It would be paradise for the Kwicksutaineuk-ah-kwaw-ah-mish First Nation on Gilford Island, except there is no easily available drinking water - bottled watered must be brought in by the caseload, either by expensive water taxi or float plane.
("The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, affordable, physically accessible, safe and acceptable water for personal and domestic uses . . ." United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.)
The septic system on the Kwicksutaineuk reserve is useless, and occasionally the stench from the overflowing tanks wafts through the air, even at times into the sacredness of the big house.
Chief Henry Scow took reporters and First Nation political leaders on a tour of his community, with hopes of raising awareness of the health and safety issues, the challenges he faces dealing with Indian Affairs, and the need for immediate action.
"I just want something for the betterment of our membership on the reserve, we deserve a lot better, better appreciation by the Department of Indian Affairs of who we are and what we are," said Chief Scow as he explained he and his people are human beings, simply asking to be treated with dignity.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine and BC Regional Chief Shawn Atleo told Chief Scow and those gathered in the big house, how they were disgusted by the living conditions they witnessed - a community without the basics that we take for granted.
During an earlier community tour, they had seen houses laden with roof rot - some homes had long ago been invaded and conquered by deadly mold, and several are condemned.
A sign on one door said, "Attention Visitors, It has been found that I have MOLD in my home. Mold has the potential to make people feel sick and suffer from respiratory problems and other symptoms. Please be aware when you come to my home you are putting yourself at risk, Many Thanks Beatrice Smith".
How bad is it? 75 percent of the Kwicksutaineuk homes are "past their time . . . some being used twice as long as they should have been," according to James Clark, of Enviro-Vac, a hazardous material environmental contractor.
Clark told Turtle Island Native Network of the urgency in addressing the health and safety issues, "Action is needed soon or there is going to be nothing left of this community". When he talks about the situation here, he shakes his head in disbelief that nothing has been done to deal with the crisis. He has seen many places elsewhere with much less of a problem, and they got attention, "This ranks right up there with the most need for some type of action, sooner than later".
After what he saw during the community tour, National Chief Fontaine commented on what he termed the terrible, intolerable living conditions, "As sad as this situation is for me to witness, sadder is that this is not unique, so many communities are in dire straits. . . We face a real crisis".
Before leaving, he promised Chief Scow and his community, "When I return to Ottawa I will call on Minister Scott and tell him what I have seen here today . . .push the department to do what is just and right for your community".
(Left to right - Regional Chief Shawn Atleo, elder and carver Sam Johnson with National Chief Phil Fontaine holding a talking stick that will give him strength when he speaks on behalf of the Kwicksutaineuk people, and delivers key messages to Indian Affairs.)
NOTE: The underlined words in the above story indicate you can click on them to see photos related to the keyword. You can also click on photos above, to see larger images.
PART TWO OF THIS STORY
More about the challenges facing the Kwicksutaineuk people
Read about previous Kwicksutaineuk-ah-kwaw-ah-mish First Nation battles
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