PIAPOT FIRST NATION -- Piapot First Nation is trying to keep COVID-19 cases in check. There’s a warning at the entrance not to enter if you’re experiencing symptoms and billboards throughout the community promote hand washing and masks.

“Our leadership was adamant about having some sort of communications campaign out on the reserve to educate our members about COVID and what they could do to protect themselves,” said communications officer Kristin Francis.

The community of almost 700 has had 88 cases so far. Vaccinations are next but there is some suspicion amongst elders.

“Both historically and even currently and very recently we have examples of mistreatment of Indigenous peoples in the health system,” said pharmacist Jaris Swidrovich. “This is something that Black and Indigenous people of colour have known for a very long time, but seems to now be on the social consciousness of the masses.”

Harry Francis is a respected Piapot elder who is trying to address vaccination concerns. He has received the vaccine as a health employee.

“As I was watching my late grandmother in the late 1950’s prepare to take her insulin needle, she encouraged me that in time I too may have diabetes, or other illness may come, and to manage with both our traditional medicines and the modern medication,” said Francis.

It’s advice echoed by the premier.

“When it is your turn and you are offered a vaccine there is only one answer that should come out of your mouth and that is yes,” said Scott Moe.

About 60 elders on Piapot First Nation have already received one dose of the vaccine.