A spokesperson for the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia is advocating for Indigenous communities who have had to evacuate due to wildfires.
Nel Wieman, the acting-deputy chief medical officer at the authority, said these evacuations can be triggering to Indigenous people dealing with past traumas.
“Anybody who’s being evacuated due to a wildfire—it would be a stressful situation,” she said. “But, I think there’s some special considerations when it comes to First Nations people. They may have additional levels of past traumatic experiences that warrant ensuring that there are adequate and culturally-safe mental health supports available to them once they’re evacuated.”
She said these supports should be available directly in the centres housing evacuees.
“(It’s) really important for evacuation centres to start to gather culturally-safe, trauma-informed mental health supports or find out where those supports are available so that information can be provided to evacuees upon arrival.”
She added that this year has been emotionally draining for Indigenous people with the findings of bodies at former residential schools and evacuations add to this stress.
Wieman said one way to help reduce the stress of being evacuated is to prepare for it before wildfire season, such as packing a “go-bag” which holds all the essentials needed to be away from home for at least a week and is ready to go in a moment’s notice.
There were over 150 wildfires burning across Saskatchewan Monday.
Most residents from Southend are returning home Monday after they were evacuated two weeks prior.
(PHOTO: Dr. Nel Wieman. Photo courtesy of Anne Williams of First Nations Health Authority in B.C.)