Ottawa will provide 10 Indigenous governments in the NWT with a total of $2.6 million to help their people get out on the land during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya, who had lobbied for such funding, said the cash represented “swift action … prioritizing the health and well-being of the Dene Nation.”
The money will be passed via the territorial government to the Akaitcho Territory Government, Dehcho First Nations, Gwich’in Tribal Council, NWT Métis Nation, Sahtu Secretariat, Tłı̨chǫ Government, K’atl’odeeche First Nation, Acho Dene Koe First Nation, Salt River First Nation, and Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government.
Residents should await more information from those governments about how funding can be received.
In a joint news release on Monday, the federal and territorial governments said moving to the land during the pandemic was “aligned with broader public health recommendations for increased physical distancing.”
The statement added: “Many families in the Northwest Territories have already begun to move on to the land, to cabins and camps where they can maintain safer physical distances than if they were to remain in their home communities.
“The funds will support many other families who would not otherwise be able to be on the land because of the financial burden of acquiring necessary provisions, such as wood and fuel, food, first aid equipment, transportation, and other items suitable to their situation and culture.”
Both governments acknowledged that overcrowding in some smaller NWT communities, owing to poor housing quality and supply, meant conventional advice to stay at home during the pandemic could “have detrimental health effects.”
Individual Indigenous governments in some parts of the NWT have already begun releasing funding to families for the purpose of moving out onto the land.
On Friday last week, the Tłı̨chǫ Government launched an on-the-land program offering $175 for gas and $225 for groceries to keep people on the land for up to 10 days.
“If you choose to stay out longer, you can apply again,” the Tłı̨chǫ Government stated in a news release.
Families already out on the land were invited to submit their expenses, along with proof of being out on the land, on their return.