Keeseekoose First Nation declares state of emergency due to overdose deaths
YORKTON -- On May 8, Keeseekoose First Nation declared a state of emergency as a result of several overdose deaths in the community.
Addiction is an issue that the Keeseekoose community is familiar with. For decades, the reserve has been trying to help community members with addiction.
Seraphine Straightnose has faced death and loss in the wake of addiction.
“I walk on eggshells, especially at night. If I get a call, [I think] who is it going to be? Who is going to be next?” said Seraphine.
She recalled finding her daughter who had died from overdose overnight, her young son was at her side.
“ [He said] grandma don’t let her be dead. How do you answer a nine year-old losing his mother?” she said.
According to the Yorkton Tribal Council, at least five kids from Keeseekoose are orphaned due to drug overdoses every year.
According to leadership, the community hopes to obtain more support from the Government of Canada.
“We’ve put in a request to the federal government for more police officers. There will be an additional 17 police assigned to Kamsack,” said Chief Calvin Straightnose.
These officers will be patrolling the community and will be present throughout the Keeseekoose election to ensure drugs are not used in exchange for votes, an issue Chief Straightnose said the community has faced in the past.
Throughout his term as chief, Straightnose said he has tried to prevent drugs from entering the community by implementing by-laws that would ban drug dealers and non-band members dealing drugs from entering the community.
Chief Straightnose said that drug trafficking in the community has lead to a variety of other issues, like increased HIV transmission.
“They come and take our money and suffer our children. That’s why I made those by-laws. Today, they sit un-used,” said chief Straightnose.
Councillor Alvin Musqua of Keeseekoose First Nation described the situation as a losing battle. Despite having workshops, Musqua said the biggest barrier in resolving this problem is the lack of by-law enforcement and presence of the RCMP.
He said that for the RCMP to move forward on tips of dealers in the community, it is required that people testify in court. Musqua said that in the past this has been difficult to do. However, with council and band members providing tips to the RCMP, they believe these tips are not being pursued.
“Since nine and a half years that I have been on council. The agreement was for them to come out into the community and [have] police in the community and have members of the detachment out here but we’ve only gotten excuses as to why they cannot come out,” said Musqua.
In a statement, the Kamsack RCMP Detachment said that it is committed to working with the Keeseekoose First Nation to address safety concerns and has already begun to open the lines of communication. RCMP says that one of its priorities is to increase visibility in Keeseekoose First Nation and the surrounding area. This would include conducting increased patrols where police officers are physically out in the community.
RCMP said that it values its relationship with Keeseekoose First Nation and look forward to addressing any concerns that the community may have.