Photo: Sagkeeng’s check stop on the west side of Powerview-Pine Falls.
Checkstops “authorized, justified and vital to the safety of the members of the Sagkeeng First Nation” – Chief Henderson
By Don Norman
On May 15, responding to a letter from the Town of Powerview-Pine Falls requesting that Sagkeeng move the current check stop on the west end of the town so that residents could use the boat launch and cemetary, Chief Derrick Henderson has answered with a resounding “no.”
In his response, Chief Henderson rejected the wording in the letter from the town saying that the “unauthorized stoppages,” referred to in the Town’s letter are in fact, “authorized, justified and vital to the safety of the members of the Sagkeeng First Nation”.
Sagkeeng erected the check stops in April and had initially placed that one on the Sagkeeng side of the boundary between the communities, but had since moved it to the Pine Falls side, blocking Dock Road.
Chief Henderson argues that the land where the check stop is located on the un-surrendered, traditional territory of the Sagkeeng First Nation and that it is located at an essential spot to ensure that his people remain safe from COVID-19.
The Town of Powerview-Pine Falls has publicly supported Sagkeeng’s efforts to keep their community safe, but complaints raised by residents that they were being restricted from using the boat launch and cemetery, prompted the letter.
The Town’s letter indicated that the they are open to discussions to ensure that traffic doesn’t enter the reserve via back roads. It mentions specifically the possibility of placing boulders to ensure traffic does not have access to Sagkeeng. But from Henderson’s perspective, that wouldn’t fully address the problem. “The present location of the check point is necessary to prevent unauthorized access by persons who may be carriers of COVID-19 via the uncontrolled back roads and waters that could otherwise be used to gain access to the Sagkeeng Community without the necessary vetting.”
Henderson says he’s sympathetic and he regrets that people are burdened by these restrictions but said that people all over the globe are also facing restrictions to fight this pandemic. “Am I to understand that Check Points and questioning are not objectionable as long as no one wants to enter Sagkeeng Lands, but as soon as there is a demand from people to access Sagkeeng for fishing season, the restriction should be dropped and free access provided to people without ascertaining the threat of contagion that they pose?”
The Advocate contacted the Town of Powerview-Pine Falls for comment, but we have received no response to date.