Death of Chief’s son renews calls for suicide prevention

Neskantaga First Nation: Tragedy has hit again in the small Oji-Cree fly-in community of Neskantaga. Less then a year after the First Nation declared a state of emergency in response to a series of suicides, Dwayne Moonias, 29, son of Chief Peter Moonias took his own life last month.

Neskantaga First Nation is located northeast of Thunder Bay and falls under the jurisdiction of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN). NAN is a political territorial organization comprising 49 First Nations communities spread across northern Ontario. NAN Grand Chief, Harvey Yesno described the late Moonias as a talented musician who was a leader on NAN’s youth council. Moonias’ sudden death has shocked the entire community.

Last spring, Neskantaga issued a state of emergency after three community members had committed suicide in a short period of time. To prevent additional deaths, the community put its youth on suicide waatch. Chief Moonias stated that more then half of the community adults are addicted to OxyContin and other painkillers and with limited health care resources available, any real attempts to deal with this crisis are insufficient.

Neskantaga First Nation has identified needed actions to help prevent suicide including mental health and addictions counseling but lack the human and financial resources to make it happen.
Neskantaga is home to approximately 300 residents.

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