- Category: news
- Created: Thursday, 12 September 2013 14:49
- Published: Thursday, 12 September 2013 14:49
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By Chad Ingram
A Canning Lake cottager recently experienced a part of Canadian culture that most residents of this country never will.
In June, Adria Scarano spent five days on the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nations reserve, also known as Big Trout Lake, 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.
Scarano was part of a group of about 40 people who took advantage of an invitation by the community for Canadians to come and experience life at Big Trout Lake during National Aboriginal Week.
“I had a handle on what I thought I was going to see,” said Scarano, who works in marketing in Markham.
What she thought she was going to see was poor housing conditions, drug and alcohol abuse, young, single mothers and high unemployment.
And she was right, explaining the houses on the reserve are cheaply made and often prefabricated.
“They’re not built to withstand the rigours of the north,” Scarano said. “If your hot water tank breaks, you wait three to six months.”
The band does have goals in place for housing and Rotary International has expressed interest in the community, Scarano said.
Big Trout Lake is home to approximately 1,400 people, at the larger end of average for a reserve.
Many of the homes are multigenerational, with grandparents, parents and children all living under one roof.
Such was the case with the family home where Scarano stayed during her visit.
One of the most disturbing aspects of life in Big Trout Lake for Scarano was the reserve’s dental care, or lack of it.
Every three to four months, she said dental practitioners, sometimes students, will go to the reserve to provide dental care.
“They don’t really get dentists that go,” Scarano said, explaining a lot of the dental work is sub – par – she heard stories of six-hour root canals-and that as a result, many residents don’t partake.
She also saw instances of fetal alcohol syndrome and said the detrimental effects of residential schools could be felt strongly.
Due to the high cost of transport, food is incredibly expensive, although the produce was fresher than Scarano expected.
“They fed us really well,” she said, explaining meals included traditional food such as moose, caribou, goose and fish, but also Canadian staples such as hamburgers and potato salad.
With limited opportunity on the reserve, Scarano said many young people choose to leave, some returning after they’ve completed schooling.
“If you choose to graduate from high school, you have to be flown out of the community,” she said, explaining the nearest high school is in Sioux Lookout, some 400 kilometres from the reserve.
Scarano said the reserve is essentially given a budget from the government each year, out of which it must pay all its costs, including but not limited to education, rehab and family services and associated salaries.
The cost of flying bodies out of the reserve for post-mortem examination comes out of this same pot.
“If you have three suicides or three deaths in a month, that’s $45,000 out of their budget,” she said.
Beneath the social, economic and cultural troubles though, Scarano described an “intense sense of community,” and also a burgeoning sense of hope for the future.
“I just want people to know that every reserve is unique onto itself,” she said, adding that while some reserves experience problems with corrupt councils, Big Trout Lake was very well-managed. “They were willing to let us look at their books, if we wanted to.”
What did Scarano take away from her trip?
“I didn’t go there to come up with a solution [to the complicated issue of reserves],” she said. “I wanted to go because I wanted to say I have been there, you have not, and this is how it is.”
For more information about Big Trout Lake, visit kitchenuhmaykoosib.com.