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Indigenous businesses step up to help local communities fight COVID-19
A tourism operator has joined forces with Indigenous Sports and Wellness Ontario to fight COVID-19 in local reserves around Northern Ontario. (Ian Campbell/CTV Northern Ontario)
SUDBURY -- If there's any truth to the old saying, "it takes a village," then look no further than Arthur Trudeau.
Originally from Sagamok, he lives just outside of the reserve and runs Mukwa Adventures, one of many indigenous-owned tourism operators hit hard by the COVID-19 virus.
Now he's joining forces with Thrive Tours and Indigenous Sports and Wellness Ontario to donate roughly 30 cases of hand sanitizer to reserves around the region.
Atikameksheng, Wikwemikong, Birch Island and Sagamok are just a few of the communities that have benefitted from the project.
"The reason why this was so important, first and foremost, was based on culture, language, youth and elders," Trudeau said. "Diabetes is very high within the community and it shuts the immune system down or compromises it and we all know that COVID-19 attacks this.
"It's a very high risk, so if we can help, I'll gladly donate this along with Thrive Tours and ISWO."
Trudeau said they started the deliveries based on how much they had in stock, when they heard news of a confirmed case.
"Wikwemikong First Nation had their first case -- and the only one so far confirmed COVID-19 (in the nursing home) -- we mobilized really quick and we went down there immediately," he said.
Chief Nelson Toulouse thanked the group for what he said was a generous donation.
"What we're going to do is give it to frontline … basically to assist our people so they don't get contaminated with the disease," Toulouse said.
"I think people like Art, and other community members stepping up to help, that's really what this thing is all about."
Several communities have already closed their borders and have asked members to stay home in a bid to limit any potential spread.
Many fear First Nations communities are at risk of being some of the hardest hit by the virus.