Nlaka’pamux Communities Prepare for New Normal

Practice Point

Nlaka’pamux Communities Prepare for New Normal

“IN MANY WAYS, WE’VE ALREADY BEEN TAUGHT to prepare,” said Lennard Joe, Emergency Operations Manager for the Nlaka’pamux Health Services Society.

“In many ways, the lesson is that the land will change. The land will constantly change, and we will change with it. As the land is adapting, so will we.”

Speaking at an Emergency Manager Update on Wednesday, November 24—Day 10 of the “mega-emergency” brought by flooding of the Coldwater and Nicola Rivers—at the Coast Hotel in Kamloops where evacuees are gathered, Joe raised his hands to the strength of people in the Nlaka’pamux communities “who are stepping forward to do the things that need to be done.”

A member of the Shackan Band located in the Nicola Valley 40 km west of Merritt on Highway 8 (one of nine Nlaka’pamux communities affected by the flooding), Joe told his audience he was brought into his role on October 15 to help with recovery from the summer’s wildfires, prepare for the spring freshet, and prepare for the winter with COVID-19.

But weather emergencies such as the November 13-15 “atmospheric river” event “will become part of our normal.”

Joe described his team’s operations including a “Nations call” every morning with all communities and essential services team members, how Nlaka’pamux programs are preparing for the new normal, and how individual preparedness is key, describing the “72-hour rule” of having supplies in one’s vehicle if one leaves home.

He described how Nooaitch First Nation, isolated when flooding wiped out its bridge over Spius Creek and took out its power, was able to reach out on “an old land line that didn’t use electricity in the band hall” and truck radios.

Joe thanked the First Nations Emergency Services Society (FNESS) for providing for an Emergency Management Centre at the Coast Hotel. On its “Emergency Operations Centre’ web page, FNESS provides current information about First Nations impacted by emergency events and explains that it “is actively working with EMBC [Emergency Management BC, the coordinating agency for the provincial government’s emergency management activities] to coordinate Needs Assessments and Rapid Damage Assessments (RDA) in our First Nation Communities affected by the flooding.”

Kamloops-based CFJC Today reported on Thursday, November 25 that Nlaka’pamux Health is partnering with other agencies like the First Nations Health Authority and providers like Save-On Foods to assist evacuees.

* * *

We acknowledge that the land on which we work is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.