The North Island First Nation that created headlines earlier this year for banning bootleggers and drug dealers is continuing its battle against substance abuse.
Th Port Hardy area Gwa’sala – Nakwaxda’xw (GNN) First Nations held a “No more drugs” march Monday to continue spreading a strong message against drug and alcohol use in the community.
“The Elders’, Elected and Youth Councils wish to continue the work that has been stated on eliminating drugs, bootlegging and alcohol-related incidents on Reserve,” states a GNN press release, adding “We want our community to be safe and will no longer tolerate drug dealers, bootleggers, and people who provide alcohol to minors.”
The march began in Port Hardy at Tsulquate Park as GNN members and supporters chanted “We don’t need drugs and alcohol” until they reached Wakas Hall on Tsulquate Reserve where speeches and dinner followed.
“As today goes on we want to keep promoting a drugs and alcohol-free reserve and community,” said GNN Coun. Gary Walkus, at the beginning of the march, adding “We have all lost loved ones to drugs or alcohol.”
GNN Chief Paddy Walkus spoke to the participants upon their arrival to Wakas Hall.
“I thank each one of you for your love and support today,” said Chief Walkus, adding that the march will “make a statement to hopefully help combat what is so devastating to our families and our people all around us.”
Chief Walkus also spoke about how he was once told by a demographer that at the rate of death in the community “we would be gone by the year 2005”.
He said, one year, statistics showed roughly 15 deaths in the community and no births.
“Those things were really grim – it gave us a real feeling of apathy and not caring what happened in our lives,” said Chief Walkus, adding “it’s not all hunky dory yet – but hopefully in the terms of this generation we will see more positive change.”
Chief Walkus also thanked Port Hardy Coun. Leighton Wishart for his participation in the march.
“I would like to make a special acknowledgment for Port Hardy council for supporting us at this time – it does so much for the heart as we join hands and join hearts to be one,” said Walkus.
“I think that it’s important that we support the position of no alcohol and drugs on this reserve. It’s been a serious issue for a long time and the community on the reserve is trying to get a handle on it,” said Wishart, adding “I think the town of Port Hardy and the residents of Port Hardy should support them as best we can.”
Port Hardy RCMP Cst. Patrick Starr also attended the event providing traffic safety during the march and delivering a speech at Wakas Hall before dinner was served.
“I wanted to be here because every time there is a community function, and every time I get a community invite, I see more and more … the positive energy coming from the community,” said Starr, adding “I really believe that this community is destined for great things and I feel so fortunate to be a community member and partner with you.”
The march and dinner at Wakas Hall concluded acknowledgment of individuals who have remained sober.
This is the second “No Drugs and Alcohol” march the community has held with the first one taking place in January 2018 shortly after GNN council gave written notice to dealers and bootleggers stating they were not welcome in their community
Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw is a small semi-rural community of about 500 on-reserve community members and roughly 350 members living off-reserve. The Tsulquate reserve is adjacent to the town of Port Hardy on the Northeastern tip of Vancouver Island. Prior to 1964, they lived as two separate tribes. The Gwa’sala people mostly lived and travelled around Smith Inlet and the surrounding island while the ‘Nakwaxda’xw people lived and traveled around Seymour Inlet, the Deserter’s Group, Blunden Harbour, and surrounding islands. In 1964 they were amalgamated with each other (and the Kwakiutl, temporarily) and forcibly relocated to the Tsulquate Reserve, far away from their homelands.
– with files from Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw website