OHSWEKEN — Community members have come together and are looking at their options in how they can help the community of Attawapiskat First Nation.
Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency on April 9 in response to 28 suicide attempts in March and 100 since last September, seven of which involved children under 14. There are several reasons why the state of emergency was issued, the lack of access to common, everyday necessities like hygienic products and food being one of them.
The group wants to start sending products and donations up north — beginning with Attawapiskat and then branching out to other northern First Nation communities.
The group, Helping Hands Initiative for Attawapiskat and Northern Communities, was initiated by Laurie A. Hill. She wants to give people the opportunity who want to help but don’t know how to, a way to donate. Hill said that there is no list of acceptable or unacceptable donations, but that you should just ask yourself “What would you want your children to have?” and donate accordingly. So things like; unexpired food items; toys; games; sports equipment; hygienic products; toothpaste; etc.
“If anyone is interested in donating items, reach out on Facebook and let me know,” said Hill. “You can find our group on Facebook by searching for Helping Hands Initiative for Attawapiskat & Northern Communities.”
The Facebook group already has more than 280 followers and Hill has already received some donations in way of a large supply of diapers. She is grateful for the community’s willingness to help but wants to make sure that things are done correctly and that the communities up north are continually helped once the news articles about Attawapiskat have lost their speed.
“We all know what usually happens,” said Hill. “A community declares a state of emergency, the government reacts and news outlets go crazy covering the story; the government might send up some money and then the issue is dropped and we don’t hear about it again until more children start attempting suicide again.”
Hill said that she wants to do things different this time and continue accepting donations until the media frenzy regarding Attawapiskat has died down. Then they will plan how to get the items and donations up north.
“The idea is not to just help them now in this moment,” she said. “We want to wait and collect a lot of items and then continue to keep sending items up throughout the year. Maybe two or three times a year.”
The group is still in its early stages of development and does not have a date to send any donations up north yet and won’t for a few months, but they are still accepting donations. The one thing the group needs right now is a space to hold the donations until they are ready to be shipped.
“We don’t have a space yet to hold all of the donations we are expecting,” said Hill. “So if someone has a space that we could use we would really appreciate it.”
Helping hands initiative.jpg: Idle No More and Black Lives Matter protesters occupy the Toronto office Occupation of Indigenous and Northern Affairs of the demand action on Attawapiskat suicide crisis. This is poster from one of the protestors listing off some things that Attawapiskat youth need. Submitted photo