Enoch Cree Nation Sticking Together Through Pandemic

Enoch Cree Nation supports its people beyond geographical boundaries

When looking at her community’s response to COVID-19, Michelle Wilsdon was not surprised.

“My community is incredibly resilient and adaptive,” said Wilsdon, Council Division Lead of Enoch Cree Nation. “And there are many things that made me very proud of our community.”

She cites the hunters that volunteered to go out on the land to secure meat for her people. They harvested an abundance of elk, moose, and fish that was stored in case people could not leave the community to shop because of a lockdown or could not afford meat.

“Our Nehiyaw Pimatsiwin (Cree Way of Life) team organized community-wide days of prayer,” Wilsdon said. “They delivered traditional medicine to households, and lifted the pipe in ceremonies to pray for and protect our community. Our Mamowacitiwin (helping one another) team immediately sprang to action, ordering food and assembling hampers for households on reserve. Our members were able to limit exposure to COVID by not travelling to Edmonton to shop, and those who were financially impacted by the pandemic had weekly food supports available.”

Wilsdon pointed out that most of their coordination efforts were for the Nation’s members who live on reserve. But more than 900 members live off-reserve, the majority in Edmonton. Many were impacted by the pandemic and struggled to make ends meet. That is where Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) stepped in.

On Tuesday, May 5, ECF granted $20,000 to The Enoch Cree Nation through its COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund (RRF) to support a food program. ECF began strategic COVID-19 granting on March 19 and established the RRF on March 25. The fund was established with $500,000 of ECF’s discretionary dollars and has doubled its impact, thanks to ECF’s generous donors and community partners.

“Enoch’s response exemplified a community coming together in a crisis,” says Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s Director of Grants and Community Engagement. “ECF is happy to be able to support part of that response.”

ECF’s timely support meant a real impact for folks living off-reserve.

“With the contribution from Edmonton Community Foundation, we were able to purchase grocery gift cards and support  209 adults and 151 children who live off-reserve,” Wilsdon said. “The donation helped the Nation to fill a critical gap in our programming, which is to assist our off-reserve members. And for those members, it helped them feel more secure, as a part of the community and not forgotten.”

Wilsdon added that ECF also assisted their local school in procuring 100 Chromebooks. The donation will help 100 families who need to adjust to online learning for their children, and give them the essential tools they need to succeed.

“Our people have survived many pandemics that were brought to our communities since first contact,” Wilsdon said. “My ancestors have overcome smallpox, measles, tuberculosis, Spanish flu, and we will overcome COVID-19. We will be the generation of ancestors that beat this virus and come out stronger at the end, just like those before us did.”

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.