Members of the Muskoday First Nation are looking to raise awareness and spur action on crystal meth and fentanyl in their community.

Thursday morning walkers departed from the First Nation’s health centre and began their walk, which will take them to a number of communities before finishing in Regina. Betty Prosper an addictions counsellor with Muskoday explained the idea for a walk originally came from four people who were in recovery together and spoke to her about doing a walk. Prosper said work eventually began to raise funds to help cover expenses. She said the current situation of addiction on the First Nation is serious and has impacted her directly.

“We have to do this, we have to ask the people, ‘wake up’, because we see the effects of crystal meth, my own son overdosed on Aug 3 2022,” she said.

Prosper said a number of people on the First Nation are struggling with addictions. This past weekend saw police and paramedics called out to the community a number of times to deal with overdoses.

“We had cops and ambulance out here three times, three separate times,” she said.

Erica Hennie, like Prosper is a healthcare worker at Muskoday and helped to organize the walk. Hennie, a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) said the issue of illicit drug use is one which touches many communities.

“This crystal meth and fentanyl and every other drug is also plaguing our community and we can see on a daily in La Ronge, we can see it daily in Muskdoday, we can see it in P.A., everywhere we go that drug is there,” she said.

By taking part in the walk Hennie is also hoping to help people who are currently dealing with addiction. She said simply just telling people to quit using is not enough on it’s own.

“I walk so that maybe they can see what I am doing and maybe they’ll get that understanding, ‘hey there’s people that care,'” she said.

A number of people from Muskoday came to the First Nation’s health centre to show their support Thursday morning, including former chief Herman Crain. One of the community members who wanted to show their support was Orville Knight. Knight, an Elder in the community said drugs, which he called ‘bad medicine’ have been harmful to the land and that more resources need to be made available to deal with the current situation.

“When I was young, this was a nice place, it was safe, people were honest, people trusted one another, we didn’t lock our doors, it was a beautiful place, it’s not that way anymore,” he said.

FSIN shows support

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) was represented at the walk send off by First Vice Chief David Pratt. Speaking with MBC Radio News, Pratt said Muskoday is not alone when it comes to addictions issues. He explained that at the most recent FSIN Assembly the chiefs passed a resolution declaring a regional state of emergency due to the impact of illicit drugs in FSIN member First Nations.

“I think every week pretty much, someone’s being buried because of an overdose, because of crystal meth or fentanyl,” he said.

When it comes to dealing with the issue, Pratt said FSIN has established a task force which is working to develop a strategy to combat the problem. He added the Government of Saskatchewan as well has a task force which is working on the issue. On the federal front, Pratt said there has been an addictions and mental health office established, but explained it currently does not have any funding to give out. The FSIN vice chief said they are calling on both the federal and provincial governments to do more to help First Nations combat addictions.

“The most important thing that our member nations need is investments, we need the resources right now,” he said.

The walkers first stop will be at James Smith Cree Nation Thursday. Over the next seven days walkers will be stopping in a number of different communities. People who are interested can follow along by checking in on the walk’s Facebook group.

(Top Photo: Betty Prosper, center and Erica Hennie, pose for a picture with supporters before departing on the walk. Photo by Michael Joel-Hansen.)