Canada: Home to Pikangikum, suicide capital of the world -

Canada: Home to Pikangikum, suicide capital of the world

In Pikangikum, gas sniffing is rampant and young people are taking their own lives at a shocking rate. A 2012 feature report by Martin Patriquin.

Canada, home to the suicide capital of the world

Martin Patriquin

Update, Sept. 29, 2016: APTN National News reports that three youth from Pikangikum recently died by suicide — a 13-year-old girl, along with a young man and woman, both 18. The APTN report is here. Below, a 2012 feature report from Maclean’s Martin Patriquin.  

Randy Keeper is sick of building coffins. A wiry fellow who looks younger than his 49 years, Keeper is proud of his job as a carpenter and crew leader, saying he’s built 25 houses from scratch over 17 years in Pikangikum, the reserve in northwestern Ontario where he has lived his whole life. But when it comes to the wooden boxes he builds for Pikangikum’s dead, he draws a blank. “I don’t count them,” he says from his daughter’s dining room table. He remembers the last ones, though. They were in December. “I had to make two in one day, one for an elder and one for a younger person.”

The dreams started a couple of weeks after that. In one, he’s lying face up in a freshly dug grave, watching as a coffin is slowly lowered toward him. He doesn’t know if there’s anyone inside, but he recognizes his handiwork: 100 lb. of plywood, treated pine and nails, a simple enough thing that takes him no more than 90 minutes to build. In the dream he’s alive but can’t move as it comes down on his chest, smothering him. Then he wakes up. “The elders told me to stop making them,” he says, “but I have no choice because I work for the band. I get nervous, shaky. Once the dreams happened I’d say yes out of respect for chief and council, but sometimes I don’t show up.”

Keeper is in high demand. Pikangikum, a fly-in reserve located about 300 km northeast of Winnipeg, is a place constantly haunted by the spectre of suicide. Over nearly four decades, the people of Pikangikum have seen dozens upon dozens of their friends and family members take their own lives. Last year, six people from the Ojibwa First Nations community killed themselves in as many weeks. In 2011, the community of roughly 2,400 had a suicide rate equivalent to 250 per 100,000—nearly 20 times that of Canada, and far and away the highest in the world. It has been so for 20 nearly uninterrupted years.

In recent months, the Attawapiskat reserve on James Bay served as a reminder of the deplorable conditions in many of Canada’s native communities. The lack of adequate housing in the frigid temperatures, followed by an acrimonious funding fight with the federal government, has kept the James Bay reserve of 1,800 in the public eye for months—a rare feat when it comes to native issues.

Separated by 500 km of northern Ontario wilderness, Attawapiskat and Pikangikum both suffer from a raft of structural and social problems: lack of housing and running water, addiction and poverty. Yet a glance at the numbers suggests Pikangikum is worse off—much worse. Consider how 80 per cent of its housing doesn’t have sewage pipes or running water; consider how the community of 2,400 had just over 3,600 lockups and nearly 5,000 calls for service to police last year. Consider how only two students graduated from high school last year. Consider how, as recently as 2008, fully 40 per cent of referrals to Tikinagan, northern Ontario’s First Nations childhood protection agency, were from Pikangikum. And consider the suicides, which have taken 96 lives—the vast majority of them young—in 20 years.

And yet there is a strange kind of optimism in Pikangikum these days. For all of its troubles (and after 14 years of negotiations), Pikangikum is where Whitefeather, a Canadian First Nations-owned company, will receive a licence to harvest the roughly 1.3 million hectares of the area’s surrounding forest—the first such project of its kind, according to the band and the federal government, with the local community reaping the benefits. Whitefeather is Pikangikum’s hope amidst its misery, a beacon in the suicide capital of the world.

Evenings are busy in Pikangikum. Families drive to and from the Northern Store, the only (official) place to buy anything, mostly in big, lumbering pick-up trucks. The view along the way is breathless: a brilliant sun dips toward a tree-topped horizon, lighting up the sky and reflecting off snow-covered Pikangikum Lake. Kids play hockey on a patch of cleared ice, and vehicles zoom off the ice road toward the town of Red Lake, about 100 km away. The air is so cold it’s dizzying.

I meet Jerry Strang on the 15-minute walk from the Northern Store to Pikangikum’s only hotel. Within 90 seconds, the rail-thin man in knee-high insulated boots is telling me unprompted how he lost his wife, a girlfriend and his boy to suicide. “I guess I got him mad,” Strang says. “He hung himself in the clubhouse he built. He was a carpenter like me, always used to steal my nails.” He’d like to meet someone else, but is afraid of the consequences. Then Jerry turns to me and smiles. “My sister says I’m cursed, you know?”

Death has long been part of Pikangikum’s landscape. The community’s dead are buried in the yards of family members, an Ojibwa tradition. Crosses draped with necklaces, caps, sneakers and other personal effects of the departed peek out of the snow. The ubiquity of these sites is a relatively new phenomenon, however. Though Pikangikum’s first reported suicide occurred in 1976, according to the 2002 documentary Back To Pikangikum, it remained a relatively isolated practice until the advent of gas sniffing in the 1990s. Three people killed themselves in 1992, and another three in 1993. There were eight in 1994, and a total of 27 between 1995 and 2000. At that time, British sociologist Colin Samson, reflecting on these last suicides, said Pikangikum likely has the highest suicide rate in the world. In April 2001, following several more suicide deaths, then Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault appointed a third-party manager to oversee the band’s finances for what he described as “social reasons,” suggesting the band wasn’t able to handle its finances and the rash of suicides on the reserve. The band wouldn’t comply with the government, which in turn withheld funding. The school and Northern Store closed. A federal court later found that Nault had abused his powers.

Pikangikum signs

Photo by Martin Patriquin

An Ontario “death review,” undertaken by the province’s coroner’s office after 16 youth took their own lives between 2006 and 2008, noted similarities in these deaths. They happened in so-called “clusters”; most of the victims were under the age of 15; none had sought professional help in the month leading up to their deaths; most had family lives rife with substance and domestic abuse; few went to school. One thing was consistent across them all: they all died at the end of a rope. Almost all of them were solvent abusers, and had suffered some sort of calamity, like a friend’s suicide, or something as seemingly benign as a breakup. “I think most of the people who have committed suicide have been dumped by boyfriends or girlfriends,” Shanice Quill, a quiet 17-year-old with glasses and a shy gaze, writes in a note to me on the day I sit in on a class. (She’s that shy.) And yet Quill has a fierce attachment to this place, and, like many of the students I met, would never contemplate leaving, regardless of its miseries. “I would never move to the city because I would miss my family,” she writes. “I like the fresh air here because I can breathe and whenever I’m in the city like Winnipeg I feel as if I want to be home.”

On July 15, 2011, a pick-up truck flipped on Nungesser Road in Pikangikum, killing 39-year-old Kevin Suggashie, a community organizer popular with many Pikangikum youth, and his wife, Ibena. That night, after 16 suicide-free months, a 16-year-old girl killed herself; another 16-year-old girl did the same 20 days later. In the six weeks following that, two women and two men took their own lives. Suggashie himself had spoken often of his own suicidal thoughts, likening the practice to “a person, a spirit,” as he told the Canadian Press in 2000. The belief that such nefarious spirits—Windigos, as they are known in Ojibwa—roam northwestern Ontario is rooted in its history.

Matthew Strang (no relation to Jerry—almost the entire population of Pikangikum shares just 15 surnames) doesn’t believe in Windigos. Nevertheless, the kindly 77-year-old Pikangikum elder says his brother David, a former chief, felt a change blow into the community in the late 1970s. “He said something was coming this way, that it was coming from the west,” Strang says from his kitchen table. “I don’t know how he knew.” Like many in Pikangikum, Matthew keeps his house almost unbearably hot, as if to spite the cold outside. It’s also a way to keep kids inside at night, where they belong. “In our younger days we always had things to do,” Strang says. “We were exhausted by the end of the day.” In 1954, when Matthew was 20, there was exactly one recorded drunken assault in Pikangikum; a study of the reserve published five years later noted its “low incidence of violence.” Right around that time the outpost store began carrying items beyond the staples such as flour and lard, and started advancing credit. Welfare also came in.

As the anthropologist R.W. Dunning described in 1959: “People could gather in the central community at Pikangikum Lake and the ration subsidies were handed out from the trading store on a monthly basis. It was convenient to spend more time at the centre than travel back and forth from the store to trapping grounds.” The legacy of this abrupt change lives on today. The Northern Store is a one-stop shop to cash welfare cheques, buy food and clothing and to eat at Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken, the reserve’s only restaurants. When I visited recently, a head of lettuce cost $8, and chocolate cake was on sale for $2. Red Bull costs about the same as bottled water, and the cans litter the reserve.

The sniffers are everywhere and nowhere. During the day about the only sign of them are the foot trails darting off Pikangikum’s roads, and the knotted, leaking bags of gasoline they leave behind. I saw a group of girls stumble out of the forest and onto Airport Road in the late afternoon, dressed as young girls do: tight pants, tippy heeled boots, makeup. They all cradled white bags full of brown liquid as they walked, and darted off into the forest again when they saw me. The girls must have already been sniffing, says Hank Turtle, a 38-year-old father of seven and a member of Pikangikum’s month-old solvent abuse team. “When you sniff it, it starts looking like a mud puddle. As it evaporates it gets darker.”

You can’t always see the sniffers, but you can often hear them at night, howling at the sky. They are the reason many park their trucks with the fuel cap as close to their houses as possible. Randy Keeper’s truck has been robbed of gas so many times that he’s drilled rivets into the fuel door that he unbolts every time he fills up. “I try to keep my truck low on gas,” says Kenneth Strang. “The sniffers would get it anyways.”

Sniffing isn’t the only way to get high, but it is certainly the cheapest. Pikangikum has been a dry community since a 1986 bylaw. Bootleggers risk having their vehicles impounded for bringing alcohol to the reserve because it is such a profitable business: 26 oz. of Silk Tassel whiskey, a favoured brand that sells for about $24 in Red Lake, fetches $120 in Pikangikum—nearly 70 per cent of the biweekly welfare cheque. During the spring ice breakup, when land- and water-based travel off the reserve is impossible, the price climbs to $200. Some others brew their own hooch. A popular recipe calls for a mixture of Tang, ketchup, raisins, yeast and water to sit in a warm dark place for 28 days. Dragged from the closet, the brew tastes like sweet, over-fermented beer. “It’s supposed to be good for hangovers,” says Strang, chuckling.

During the winter, when temperatures regularly fall below -30, sniffers usually hole up in a house to sniff and drink. One Friday night, Hank and I approached once such spot, a graffiti-strewn clapboard shack along Airport Road, and knocked on the window. A girl who looked to be in her early 20s pulled back the curtain and cracked it open. The smell of gas floated into the night air. She was in there with a bunch of her friends, she said. After a couple of minutes trying to negotiate his way into the house, the girl started screaming at Hank in Ojibwa. “She doesn’t want to talk to you,” he tells me calmly as we back away.

Pikangikum letter two

In Ojibwa, sniffers are known as ohmeenuhgeegahg—a person going around to take a sniff. They are arguably the most obvious sign of human distress in Pikangikum, and are treated with a mix of resignation and disdain in the community. Chasing the high, which some liken to pot, is intergenerational, something I saw when visiting the home of Juliet Turtle and Charlie Strang, who lost five of their 12 children to suicide. The couple’s kids are buried in the yard next to the house. On the day I was there, a young girl was sniffing in the outhouse not 30 feet away. When she saw me she dashed into the house. We were meant to speak, but Charlie came to the door in a rage. Neither he nor Juliet, he said, wanted to talk.

The sight of the couple’s granddaughter doesn’t surprise Kenneth Strang. A father of four who wears a Fu Manchu moustache and a “Native Pride” baseball cap, he lost a son and a daughter to suicide. Last year, he struggled to keep one of his sons, Kilmer, from the habit. “I almost lost him to the sniffers,” Kenneth says. In 1997, according to the coroner’s report, there were 147 identified solvent abusers in Pikangikum. Today, “Probably half the youth population of the reserve sniffs,” says Anthony Quill, 26, another solvent abuse counsellor. “I got sniffers who are sent home from school because they smell of gas. They feel rejected. That’s why they sniff.”

“Or because they’re bored,” says Hank.

“Or they have problems at home,” says 29-year-old Sean Peters.

Hank Turtle, Sean Peters and Anthony Quill are on the frontline of Pikangikum’s anti-solvent abuse initiative. In their tiny corner of the band office, there are eight filing cabinet drawers full of open solvent abuse cases. The nightly youth patrol, which Kevin Suggashie helped organize in 2000, was abruptly cancelled last fall, after receiving threats from solvent abusers.

Sniffers are usually sent to one of four treatment houses in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In-community treatment is limited to a 12-day group therapy excursion to a cabin across Lake Pikangikum that only recently started up again after a hiatus of several years. But the lure of gas sniffing is strong, a teenage rite of passage akin to getting drunk for the first time, as one expert put it in the coroner’s report. Somewhere between 95 and 100 per cent of the kids who take the in-community program end up sniffing again, according to the report. As for the police, they turn a blind eye, Hanks says. “The OPP doesn’t do s–t about them. When they see a drunk they have to react, but when they see a sniffer they don’t care. Or they’re scared.” (Pikangikum’s band council forbade me from speaking with reserve law enforcement.)

And so the cycle continues every night. Hank and I walk through Squirrel Rock, a neighbourhood jutting out into Lake Pikangikum to the east of the band office. He says sniffers will usually start scouring for gas once the sun goes down. Anything is fair game: garages, people’s cars, snowmobiles, the public works trucks in the yards by the airport. The gas pump at the Northern Store has been broken into more times than anyone can remember. When sniffing started in the ’90s, Hank says, “they’d inhale it through the nose, in a rag. Now they take it in through the mouth. More intense.”

The moon lights up the trails through Squirrel Rock’s forests. There aren’t any sniffers there yet, but Hank points out the houses where it’s going on. “I don’t want to go in,” he tells me, smiling. “They might offer me a drink, and I’d be tempted to take it.” There are a few walking the road, bags in hand. At 9:30, we find a sniffer on the back porch of a house overlooking the lake. He’s swaying, dizzy-looking, confused. When I ask to take his picture he raises his bag of gas in the air, toasting the camera.

Later, Hank takes me to a cliff overlooking the lake where his three brothers are buried. He doesn’t say much about their passing, but his stint in jail and struggles with alcohol are testament enough to his pain. “I got a lot of grief,” he says simply at one point.

The gym

Photos by Martin Patriquin

A passenger flying north from Sioux Lookout will see a patchwork frenzy of clear-cuts that come to an abrupt end about 50 km south of Pikangikum. This marks Ontario’s far-north boundary, as well as the southern edge of the reserve’s ancestral lands once used solely for trapping, hunting and fishing. As the lack of clear-cuts shows, these 1.3 million hectares of black spruce, white pine, poplar and white birch have been fiercely defended from the forestry operations so apparent to the south—and for many represent Pikangikum’s shining future. In 1996, then-chief Louie Quill began a process that would, 16 years later, culminate in Whitefeather, the Pikangikum-owned corporation on the cusp of harvesting the lumber in its own territory. Today, Whitefeather’s office occupies two offices on the ground floor of the Pikangikum Hotel. Sitting in the designated map room, cramped with humming computers and an industrial printer, Paddy Peters and his uncle Gideon, an elder, explain why the community decided to log its ancestral lands—something unthinkable a generation ago. “When we saw the high unemployment, people on social assistance, the decline of the fur trade, we decided we had to do something,” says Paddy, a former chief. There are potentially 385 permanent jobs associated with the project, a godsend in a community with an unemployment rate around 90 per cent.

Importantly, the new jobs will involve training. Education remains by far the most effective antidote to suicide, yet the very act of going to school is often difficult. In 2007, for reasons unknown, a kid named Nicky burned down Pikangikum’s school. Since then, Pikangikum’s 732 students have gone to school in what look like large mobile homes that sit on cement foundations—a nod, perhaps, to their apparent permanent status. They are plastered with graffiti on the outside, but the classrooms are clean and well-lit. Students file into class, many wearing headphones and fiddling with MP3 players, with a sulking indifference seemingly patented by Grade 9 students worldwide.

At first blush, it could be a classroom anywhere. But one of the first things new teachers learn to deal with is the long, uncomfortable silences following a question to the class. “It took me two months for them to say a word to me,” says Christyne Horvath, after coaxing out an answer to grammar question. It’s often like the students are testing the air with their words, and don’t much like the results.

Everything changes when they get a piece of paper in front of them. Freed from having to speak, the students write frankly about their community. They love Pikangikum’s nature, its hockey arena, fishing and hunting, their families. “It’s peaceful and quiet at nights. No trucks and Ski-Doos driving around,” writes Hosea Turtle. Of the 31 students I asked, 24 said drinking, sniffing and suicide were the biggest problems. “The thing I want to change here is for people to stop drinking and sniffing and for the violence to stop,” writes 14-year-old Jacob Kejick. “The worst thing is seeing sniffers around holding weapons,” writes Paige Suggashie, 14. “They usually use metal things and hockey sticks.” Despite it all, a surprising number of kids want to stay in Pikangikum. “I want to stay here forever because the sunsets are beautiful here,” 14-year-old Paige Suggashie writes. “I don’t want to be here because I want to go home,” writes her classmate Rocky Turtle. “My real home [is] ‘Heaven.’ ”

All told, high school students in Pikangikum have lost a total of 29.5 days of school for what principal Jo-Anne Donnelly calls “hydro, water, deaths” so far this school year. In January, the school closed for three weeks following a mould outbreak in the teachers’ quarters. Aspergillus, an airborne fungus, sent three high school teachers home—and one to the operating table for major sinus surgery. The elementary school, meanwhile, is only open half days, “basically so we can get some food into them,” says Donnelly. Teacher Christyne Horvath, a petite 25-year-old from Corunna, Ont., adding that this “lack of momentum” is at least partly responsible for the dropout rate. Her Learning Strategies class had 40 kids at the beginning of the year; on the day I visited, there were 13.

Even those who graduate won’t likely find work. Chronic unemployment means the band office is one of the few places to get a job in Pikangikum, yet students “know that if they go to high school and college and come back to run for council, if the last name’s not right they aren’t going to get anywhere,” Donnelly tells me. Of the 15 family names in Pikangikum, only seven have held the position of chief since Pikangikum became a separate band in 1908. Some say your last name also plays a role getting a new house. Pikangikum requires roughly 250 new houses to accommodate the current population. The band council is hoping for 20 this year—and Philip Suggashie thinks he knows who is going to get them. Suggashie, his wife Kay and 11 children and grandchildren live in a 12-by 24-foot shack on Lake Pikangikum. The windows are cracked and there are holes in the bare drywall. There’s hardly room to breathe. He says he’s given up asking when he’ll get a new house. In the band office, he says, there’s a bulletin board with hundreds of names on it. “The chief, the deputy and councillors say who should get houses. It’s favouritism. They give them to their friends and relatives,” Philip says. (“I’m not sure how to answer that,” says Deputy Chief Lyle Keeper when I ask him about this. “It seems like everyone is related to someone somehow.”)

Still, former chief Gordon Peters agrees with Philip. “I think favouritism plays a role in the decisions. You see the chief’s house, he’s got two or three brand new houses around his.” Most criticism is aimed at the federal government, however. As far back as 1994, Pikangikum’s suicide rate, its lack of running water and the scourge of gas sniffing has been parliamentary fodder used to embarrass the government in power, yet the situation has largely remained the same—or, in the case of suicides, gotten worse. In April 2007, Jim Prentice, then Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, flew to Pikangikum with a promise of just over $46 million for school upgrades, water and wastewater systems improvements, and funds to connect the community to the electrical grid. Five years on, nothing has happened. Prentice’s 2007 visit, meanwhile, is best remembered locally for something else entirely. When the minister asked to use the facilities, he was directed to one of Pikangikum’s many overflowing outhouses. “He took a piss behind the outhouse, because he didn’t like what he saw inside,” says Deputy Chief Keeper.

Billy Joe Strang doesn’t seem in the least bit concerned with Pikangikum’s seemingly perpetual bricks-and-mortar issues. Focusing on water and electricity, he says, masks the community’s real problem: the abject failure of many parents in the community. “Infrastructure is relatively simple to fix, but parenting isn’t,” Strang says. “You’re going to have the same problems whether or not you have running water.” The burly, soft-spoken fellow had an epiphany six years ago, when he saw two kids, “maybe eight or nine years old,” wander by his house at four in the morning. “I can’t get that image out of my head. Kids like that are going to grow up not knowing right from wrong.”

Billy Joe, chairman of the Pikangikum Health Authority, says the reserve’s societal ills—problems with police, alcohol abuse, sniffing, violence, teen pregnancy—stem from the lack of proper parenting. “Maybe because we thought we were smarter than our parents,” says the 42-year-old father of seven. “I have a pretty good idea that people are going to have a problem with that comment.” It’s crucial to his way of thinking, however. His office is in the process of purchasing a piece of land 35 km outside of the community. The plan is to set up a camp where not just sniffers but the families of sniffers would be sent a week at a time, three times a year, for family therapy, well away from Pikangikum’s demons.

Billy Joe hopes this will keep more coffins from going into the ground; like everyone else in this corner of the world, he knows there are far too many there already.


Canada: Home to Pikangikum, suicide capital of the world

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          • you don’t know what your talking bout people stop what your doing you don’t know wants going on here in pikumikum hating won’t get you guys anywhere but people hating you back and ain’t good, this is sad what your saying to the people that we lost in pikumikum your making people crying on the otherside of life be know to be yourselfs to be good and to help others to be good people on the otherside knows yous we are all family

          • you guys are your own see what happens to hate each other …. so go ahead fight each others

          • whoever is unjust let him/she be unjust still whoever is righteous let him/she be righteous still whoever is filthy let him/she be filthy still

          • Abe i feel for you try to keep the demons at bay this is a long road

          • AbrahamQ,
            I have recently been to your community of Pikangikum. I have seen the despair in people’s eyes and I have seen how many, but not all have lost respect for their land. It hurts my heart greatly to see a culture loose themselves to solvents and alcohol abuse. It’s hard to watch the youth in your community live with no hope or wanting to go to their real home of heaven. To feel this a such a young age is truly a tragedy and I wish I had an answer to make it all better for you. I wish I could wave a wand and change the future for your community. Unfortunately I cannot but I do know that it only takes one person, with one simple idea to change the world. You may be the hope for your community even though it doesn’t seem like it now. You may change the way the youth in your community choose to live simply by passing along motivation and showing them that nothing will discourage you from your goal. It may take you years for people to hear you but you can’t give up. You are the healer for your community, one day years from now, maybe even when your an elder you will realize that because of you people lived a better life. My eyes have tears for you in your journey but hang in there!

      • The issues aren’t Harper’s fault but his policies certainly won’t do anything to resolve them.

    • Politicalization of someones death is about as low as you can go.

      Liberal supporters find themselves sinking to even new depths, and we have to wonder what’s next, kicking puppies and then writing about it? Fact is, these conditions existed long before the Liberals were handed their walking papers by Canadian voters, and Liberals find themselves as always doing nothing except slagging the other guy and complaining.

    • Dreamer all people on the face of the earth have choices, these people need help making choices
      not  anything else.In the past history has shown clearly. give them lots of money that we earn honestly natives will improve so much cause they will have a better supply of sniffing material.

  2. need a other town to make, start A new pikangikum..
    half of people in pikangium are addicted to drugs and alcohol now in daysi’ve seen many people buying alcohol and teenagers buyng drugs.. all my friends now are addicted to drugsand some of my family members are properly drinking right now i walk around town try to fight this addiction and all i see is hate and people hating each other and fighting each other becuz of alcohol and drugs i tryed to call for help but nobody wants to i keep doing this every month and nobody’s on my sidei don’t where or how to start this and evertime i talk about this nobody wants to listen to a teenager

    • i am tired taken actions on my own

      • i’ve missed words ………

        • There are so many people who would like to help, AbrahamQ.  And teenagers are worth listening to–so please, keep talking.  What you have to say is important. Change can happen; you have to keep believing that.

          • AbrahamQ, I live in Ottawa. I adopted my kids. My daughter was 6 days old when I got her. Her biological mom choose my husband and me to raise her. She is from Rocky Bay FN. My son has blackfoot ancestry (I don’t have to much details). I learned so much from my kids and FN. I haven read books that I threw on the wall out of anger and rage. Everything is so unfair! AbrahamQ, keep fighting your fight. Put your tobacco down every day and ask the creator and your ancestors to guide you. If you are up for it, go for a sweat. Next time I see my elder, I will ask him to pray for you. And keep looking for that support and the will to change from others.

    • hey AbrahamQ keep talking my friend.  i will listen to you.  i am sure that what you have to say is important and worth listening to.  i have three kids and let me tell you i can hear them but that doesnt help.  i have to listen and so i do.  and if you need me to lend an ear i am here.  you are the future and you deserve at least that.  go ahead……..

    • I see your comments I can see you are sincere looking for me have something that may help

  3. This is what happens when you give people subsidies, contingent on their living in a remote area with little economic opportunities. Every time we sustain that system, we are guilty of promoting suicide and despair. I think we need to start thinking of other ways to promote northern development than the status quo, while working to grant native communities real autonomy (which means ending fiscal reliance on the federal government). 

    • This is not true.  You only have to look as far as Poplar Hill which was part of Pikangikum until 1978.  While there are some of the same problems as Pik, i.e. no sewage to most houses, the social problems are NOWHERE as bad.  You can walk around all night and the only thing to fear are the dogs. The people are the same as Pik, Suggashies, Owens, Strangs, Keepers etc. I don’t know what the solution is, but asking people to leave where their families have lived as long as can be remembered is probably not the answer.  Besides, if Canada wants to maintain soveriegnty (I don’t know how to spell that, sorry if it is wrong), then people need to live throughout Canada, especially in the remote areas.

      • Sarah, it’s spelled ‘sovereignty’ – you were close. I’ll tell you a little trick, if you’re on the internet and forget how to spell something, type it into google.  Google will correct you.  I honestly did that myself before I gave you the correct spelling.

        Now, do you see what I did there?  I taught you a method rather than giving you an answer.  I taught you to fish, rather than giving you a fish.  This apporoach, beats a subsidized existence everytime. 

        I agree with Hosertohoosier.

        • Nice…I spelled “approach”, “every time”, and “its” wrong, lol.  I was too focused on

          • Maybe you should give up thinking you have something to teach people.

        • Jeffrey: There is a commonly used word in the English language, you probably haven’t heard of it, it’s called “patronizing”. That’s when you talk down to someone as if they were a little child. Now, how does that make you feel? 

        • Talk about politicization of an issue well the first nations new how to fish how to hunt and how to do just about everything else they needed to do to survive and live well.  I think the more they can go back to doing that the better.
          If only the cultural aspects entailed with that way of life is able to survive then that is what needs to be sustained as much as possible.  And I would take the prohibition off off marijuana it is safer than both alcohol and gasoline or glue or any of that other stuff and get some n acetyl cistine into these kids before they ruin their livers and brains for good.

  4. Just like Canadian taxpayers are on the hook now for trying to do what was seen as the “right thing” in the past (i.e. education / residential schools), I think that future taxpayers will be on the hook for current “liberal” policies that give subsidy (welfare) incentives to natives to stay in isolated reserves that have no economic reason for existing.

  5. I like Billy Joe’s idea. I think that the Gov’t can help by working with people like Billy Joe , ensuring they have the resources/funding and support to make a difference for these people.
    Further the Gov’t needs to work with leaders in the community and set up a task force to address the solvent abuse issue. A task force made up of health workers, counselors, educators, youth , elders , spiritual leaders from the community. Commitment , hard work and much prayer will make the difference for Pik and communities like it ….

    • I like how he is trying change everything, meaning Billy Joe. But with Gordon Peters, didn’t he use his favourtism with helping his son, like come on, you should know better, the secrets come out.

  6. Why not try relocating the community into other reserve with the highest amount of community members in Ontario. As a first nation person, I believe that our people are stronger when we’re together. Thus possibly of getting corporations involve with the community such as McDonald’s or Tim Hortons , creating job opportunities for the youth or whom ever needs a job in that two combine community but never the less with more people in a community can create business opportunities

    • You don’t think they tried……it wasn’t their decision to be there…they were PUT there.  

      •  These people weren’t put there.  This is where have have lived for 100s of years.  It’s their choice to live there and they can move elsewhere if they want.

        • yes…they were put there… the government allocated land to these people… called reserves, and most of these land were the most isolated land found at the time… even tho by nature, they were nomadic, but once that was law, they were not allowed to leave the reserve unless special permission was granted by the government…learn your history

    •  Hahahah, Mcdonalds or Tim Hortons, are you serious.  If you want to kill the people then go ahead.  I have lived on a remote first nations reserve for the past 2 years working as a Nurse.  The rates or heart disease, obesity, diabetes… would shoot through the roof.

      I think the solution to these problems lies in motivating the people to take responsibility for themselves.  People in the community I work in are so dependent on everybody else to take care of them they can’t look after themselves.  First Nations peoples should be treated like every other Canadian (no preferential treatment) and pushed to be responsible, not dependent.

      • That only shows that in two years, you never listened to the ppl that you were treating. Our nurses in the north are more important than doctors…You also have no understanding of treaty obligations. While I agree with the idea that entitlement attitudes must tough to take….I would have expected that after two years that you would have learned to see more than one perspective. It must be so much easier to through life with a closed mind…..much less tiring than trying to learn.

    • Forced relocation will likely never be met with any positive response. Imagine the PR nightmare for whom ever gives that order… I see another Oka on our hands.

  7. I was raised not to be racist but with all these people commenting……makes it so hard.  

    I am Native….and all they can think about the MONEY… guys just can’t think…Hope their safe…you would think differently if it was a White Community.  When it’s Natives…it’s always looking down on them.  All I can say is…..hope one day you go through what we go through…and see how you like it.  

    • You know whats funny in a sick kind of way, I am non-native and was exposed to asbestos and other equally dangerous products at my work; worked so physically hard that I am disabled now and this all started as a teenager. I wonder where the love is for this non-native?

      They don’t even care for their own mirrored image, I can’t stand them kind and their wealth, I hope they choke on their money.

      Native guest, I am proud to know you exist.  Bless nature and all those who live for their love of the land and their fellow citizens of all diversity.

      The world is all about diversity, balance and “the web of life”.

    • This is a self inflicted problem, resulting from dependance and a lack of motivation.  First nation people have become so adapted to getting so much given to them they are loosing the simple knowledge how to look after themselves (poor parenting, dependent on the Northern Store for food, relying on goverment assistance…).  Your ancestors used to live in the north in isolation with no help from any external sources.  They lived happily and responsibly.

      • Self inflicted? Lack of motivation? R u kidding? All First Nations people were once self sufficient and independent. It took someone ELSE coming in to disrupt that traditional lifestyle. Things havent been given to them, theyve been taken away! These social problems stem from outside influence. It’s about time “government” steps up and provides some REAL assistance to the problems they created!!

      • That all ended with the residential schools taking the children from there natural teachers, the community.  Then there was no children in the community for the elders to teach the proper passage into adulthood.  So they made up there own passage using alchole and drugs instead of the vision quests because there was no one to show them.    They have a natural tie to the land they were born to.  They will only feel at home there., some generationally.  They are the Canadians Responsiblilty now.  Take Care of YOur backyard.

    • I’m gonna quote you,”I was raised not to be racist but with all these people commenting……makes it so hard.  “.I would like to start  just by saying that it’s true about your saying.On the other hand i would just like to say that “it is people like them that gives the WHITE RACE , a bad name.

  8. I think the last three paragraphs sum it all up.  Excellent article.

  9. making jobs? we all know what happens when they have ther money .. need to think. it’s easy, move out pikangikum and live the good old days it’s simple like it’s so herd to do something like that…

    wish i was a pikangikum chief to do that and not making builings for jobs

    • it’s r rights to do something like that and noone else..

      • exp* noone needs to do know

        • to know*

          • dude youre not making any sense at all……..are you drunk?

          • hmmmmm …

          • wil i tryed my best ..

    • It has to start early in the life time, and do a proper passage to adulthood.  It took generations to create this problem it will take generations to repair.  And it will be a battle to suckle the current generations or may take passage to the next.  Either way it is here for years to come.

  10. We humble ourselves before the face of death. We Unite as a Nation Across Gods beautiful creation.
    Respect is in our culture. love is in the blood God gave us. bravery is in our hearts, which we thrive…
    Never be ashamed of who we are, because we will finish and succeed, and fight for what is ours.
    Each language that has been taken away, we shall take it back and make it come alive.
    Make nomore commits to suicide, Instead commit to a life with endless possibilities.
    My native, Listen to the old man that gives u advice because he is wise and he understands our drive.
    – pikangikum writer. :)

  11. If I lived there, I would leave.

  12. I am a not native but have some native friends. I would like to share something that is very true its like a poem. When the white man discovered this country, Indians were running it no taxes or debt, woman did all the house work men did all the outside work, White man thought he can improve on a system like that. This is the governments fault things are the way they are

    •  Nobody is forcing these people to take taxpayers money and waste it on booze and drugs.

  13. We see the same problems on reserves throughout Canada. I’d like to touch upon “Houses go to certain family names” because that’s what happens on some reserves in BC as well. There are the fortunate ones, and the unfortunate ones and it’s all up to the  band council who these people may be, and it’s mostly based on the last names. When you see clusters of habits by band councils like “favouritism, not allowing media to talk to higher ups (like cops) and an outright refusal to open the books, you can smell the corruption which takes place in the bands offices. As much as we love to blame Gov’t, we can’t ignore this fact. Who is to blame? Our gov’t or theirs? Does it matter how much money we pour into social programs or housing if the band office continues to exercise such habits? We are so busy trying to fix this problem we forgot to lay the problem in the hands of those who deserve it-the band councilors who continue to ignore the problem while counting their cash. . 

  14. given what the article had to say about what life is like there, I think those who are gone and have made an informed and highly logical choice.

  15. Another nanny state paradise? I love the Great White North, but cradle-to-grave social welfare systems mean an early grave.

    • There are parts of Canada that can drive people to kill themselves.  They do not do it because they have a single payer health care system though.  As a matter of fact, they live longer happier lives than Americans and the statistics prove it.

      However, what would drive me to murder suicide is if I one day woke up your next door neighbor.

      My only hope would be if we ended up in Florida, in which case, putting a bullet in your worthless head would be considered a case of self defense, even if I had to chase you down a couple of blocks to do it.  All I would have to say was you were wearing a hoodie, looked like you were on drugs and up to no good, and plant a box of Skittles and a can of Ice Tea on you.

      Do not believe me, just ask Trayvon’s parents how little it takes to claim self defense.

      • Well, I know you can’t be Trayvon’s daddy, Hussein Obama has already laid claim on that “honor.” What that gang-banger wannabe has to do with Canada, I’ll never know. Take two Prozac and get some rest. You’ll need it to get through tomorrow, no doubt.

        • You know, usually I would say that you are writing such nonsense because it is so late at night, but then you write stupid nonsense in the middle of the day too.

          I never claimed to be Trayvon’s father, you idiot.

          To back to kindergarten and take up where you left off so many decades ago.  

          God you are stupid tonight.

  16. If I was that bored, I would move.  If I had internet access and was young and lived there, I’d be scratching at the walls to go out and experience the rest of the world.

    I couldn’t conceive of allowing my outhouse to overflow, or not look after my “nest” in general.

  17. I too would be suicidal if forced by social pressure and government subsidy to live in a remote hellhole with no job prospects on the basis of nothing more than “tradition.”

    • I am not sure it is so much “forced” to stay as compelled.  I think if we had a way to make young people in Pikangikum understand that they can make their own choices…not to stay or to stay and make the place better…they would see some alternatives to suicide.  Obviously the money they are receiving is not that can make much more working as a skilled person away from the reserve.   The living conditions are atrocious and people are not happy or optomistic about the future.   Unfortunately self-medicating by abusing solvents is particularily destructive to the brain of a young person. 

  18. You Commenters are just dumb. Racism, Money, Band Council Favouritism, Relocation, Even Trayvon all of these “Issues” are irrelevant. Each Individual of this Reserve just needs to be slapped in the face and get told to get outside and start cleaning up the garbage they’ve made, rake the yards side roads, create landscapes, then maybe just maybe the Government will finally take notice… i would know because i’m from Pikangikum A.K.A the true Hockeytown!

    • That is great input. 

  19. It just goes to show that you can’t live on just scenery. One difference between Canada and the States is that in Canada, the First Nations hold most of the lands, whereas in the States the reserves are only a small slice of of the total real estate. However, the problems that the young of the First Nations face in both countries are fundamentally the same, most of which can probably be traced to simple boredom. No goverment in Canada, whether Tory or Grit, has ever had much success tackling the problem of boredom for any group of people. 

  20. the reserves have some benefits–they allow first nations to preserve their cultural identity, i.e., speak their language in a community that they wouldn’t have outside the reserve.

    • That is if you get parenting, and a willing participant to learn a dead language.

  21. oops, wasn’t done. However, just as with any nation-building exercise, you need serious infrastructure investment and economic incentives to drive development. After all, that’s why most nation-building exercises go sour…it requires a serious commitment. And that’s the least that citizens and first nations can expect of their government or the gov’t that displaced them and ensured continued dependence.

  22. What is this word, spa? I feel like you’re starting to a say a word and
    you’re not finishing it. Spaghetti? Are you taking me to a spaghetti

  23. problem?

  24. That or jack up the price of gas…

  25. I am sorry to say but I dont think we can help at all. More money wont solve the issues, they are bored, they are lonely saddly no one can change this.

  26. Obviously, the Native leaders are unable or unwilling to address this issue…. let’s leave it to the taxpayers to figure this out and then after we’ve spent millions of dollars, the natives will still cry wolf.

    • No Isaac… you are wrong… that’s not how it is.

  27. This comment was deleted.

  28.  Stang sounds like he gets it.
    If you can’t parent well how can you expect good adults?

  29. Don’t give in to the darkness.  There will be a way out, but not before a immense test of will.

  30. Scots were forced off their lands and some ended up in Canada. It is time for the elders to let their young go west as Scots were told by their elders. These people have a rich culture to take with them and to share just like the scots still do though far away from the home land. It surges beats suicide in these numbers.

  31. This is a sad situation; but, one that most of the first nations people won’t do anything about & they’re the ones that have to do something because throwing money at this problem won’t make it go away. They have to is GET UP & GET OUT. The complaint is that the younger ones are bored & have nothing to do – that’s a cop out. Move into the main stream of society and quit sitting there with your hand out doing nothing. I’m retired now but when I was working in the steel industry, (Dofasco), in Hamilton, ON, I knew upwards of a dozen employees there who were of the first nations. They got out, they made a new life for their families, they gave their kids a chance. This is what these people have to do & they can do, but they have to WANT TO do it.

  32. Responsibility and Accountability, want a Helping Hand, look at the end of your wrist.
    Why stay there if things are so bad, do what the rest of us do, move to a place where you can get a job, and quit blaming others for your actions.

  33. Has a possibility of serious mental illnesses ever been fully investigated?     

    • This is not a new problem.  There were “solvent abuse programs” 20 years ago that catered only to First Nations people from remote reserves.  Some of the children who were sniffing gasoline were pre-schoolers.  The suicide rates were astronomical then too.  It was a complex issue then and it looks like nothing has really changed.  Older grandparents were trying to raise their very young grandchildren and great granchildren because the parents of those children were not available (often due to substance abuse) to do so.  The solvents can cause brain damage and personality changes with chronic use. 

  34. The eye catching title of this article HAS to be WRONG ! I note that NO written backuo or comparable data-  that we can all refer  to ,  is included in this article ! 

     The rate of Aboriginal suicides is heart breaking – but the modern whitemans’  solutions . ie the removal of the RESERVES to an URBAN setting  has been resisted by the ” Chiefs ” organizations for a very , very long time ! And it is not very hard to see why – when the Chiefs refuse even to have their salaries, and so called organizations costs   – provided by all Canadians – are open to transparency – a modern name for OPENESS and HONESTY in reporting .

    The message that the Canadian Government ( except for  JOE Oliver ‘s recent speeches ) won’t repeat is-  GET OFF THE RESERVES – and join the rest of us in the modern Canadian  society- and start living – not dying ! I don’t want see any more suicides , like those that are highlighted in this article .  But I am tired of seeing this absolute waste of people . just to keep the Chiefs in their positions of power over the Reserves.

    It is time for TOUGH LOVE for all the Aboriginals in Canada – not just the few of them ,   that have seen the light  and are now joining in Canadian Industry – and providing good jobs and careers for their own people to enjoy for their own future!  

     It is about time !         

  35. They get piles of money but maybe that’s the problem. They need to reach out for help to use the money wisely. White people aren’t that bad if they aren’t shoved away when help is needed.Corrupt politics is in their bands. I have seen it first hand..mismanagement. 

  36. To the Chiefs,council and the people of Pikangikum and all other reserves. You say you need 250 homes, with 90% unemployment why don’t all able bodied men and women and kids build 250 log cabins instead of sitting around on your lazy asses and waiting for the “white man” to build you houses and to feed you. Who built your ancessters  tee-pees for them?

    • If anyone here knows how to go into the woods, chop down some trees and construct a functional log cabin that would keep out the elements then let me know.

      My point is that these people are no better at surviving on their own as any average Canadian. Their culture has been completely stripped from them, the parents of these adults were “white washed” in christian schools and were expected to integrate into society. The only problem being that they were taught english and math at the expense of not learning their own traditional ways of living and surviving. Their children are now trapped between two worlds, not trained enough to be productive in our economy (location doesn’t help either) and not skilled enough to be able to live off of the land without support from the government.If these people need anything, it’s education in the old ways of living. They need to be taught about the farming, building, hunting and manufacturing of their own goods so they can be self sustaining. Something anyone should be learning if they don’t want to have to rely on the infrastructure our economy.

      • Umm…gee Jonathan…I don’t know how to break this to you but building a functional log cabin is not exactly rocket science.  There are countless “DIY” books on the subject.  Don’t you live in Ontario…home to “cottage country”?   It is also not difficult to build yourself a new “outhouse”, should yours start to overflow.   Hunting is another skill that is not particularly difficult if you have a gun; neither is fishing, if you have the equipment.  Motivation is what is lacking and that people seem to take no pleasure in taking care of their community, their children or themselves.  They self-medicate to numb themselves with anything they can easily obtain.   I totally agree with your assessment that the only way out of this awful situation is to make this generation self-sustaining but you have to deal with the substance abuse. 

  37. In ages past, when they had to work, and work hard to provide sustenance, they would feel good about themselves. Then the government came in and gave them money, so they could buy whatever they needed. Presto; no need to work anymore. That would make most people despondent.

  38. This has nothing to do with the Harper Government. His party is doing its best to change what has been neglected by all governments before. Have we Canadains  been informed of the situation and done something about it ???? NO    So we are all at fault

  39. I’m thinking Canada needs to change our picture of  The North.  We need to use   explore  develop  make it a destination.    There has to be a positive economic use for all that area.   We have plans  to live in space   why can’t we live in the North.   That would give residents a big picture  to be proud of their land and  their history and a reason to work    Get up every day   work  to make a living  instill the work ethic in their children      There needs to be a plan  to make jobs   .    Put university’s to work finding a solution     let’s all get together     work it

  40. This is such a huge and sad problem.  There are no easy answers, just one baby step at a time.  As for the Harper comment…The native people don’t really need anyone to look after them, as they are an inventive, intelligent,and a talented race of people, with a lot to offer. Govt is not responsible for everything, nor can it fix everything.  I think this community has lost its pride, and needs to find that pride again  Creativity is one of the best ways to foster pride of self. I hope the whole community gets together to dream, plan, and build the camp.  Add artwork of all kinds that they make themselves.  Everyone can teach each other something, and also invite other natives to come and teach a type of art.  No one in the community gets left out. That camp can be the beginning of so many good things for the community.  A refuge for sniffers and non sniffers, elders, and the young.  A place to make meals, dance, games, etc. I hope personally, no tv or computers are ever allowed there. I know this sounds simplistic but this community needs a place to start healing, and learning to live again. To learn to let ideas flow from one person to another, so plans start to form. They need hope.

  41. Canada is a country populated by people from all over the world who got off their rear ends, packed up their few belongings and took off in a search for a better life.  One wonders why more of the aboriginals couldn’t do the same.  The survivors of the Holocaust didn’t become gas sniffers and drug addicts, they made the effort to become productive useful citizens wherever they settled.

    I had three Canadian Indians work for me and they were some of the best employees the company had.  One wouldn’t admit he was a native, one, when asked his status, advised that he had no idea, and the last took advantage of everything that came down the pike, Indian or none Indian; well done for him.


    • you totally have no understanding of this… you just don’t

  42. It sickens me to read these articles. I gew up in a so-called third world country and moved to Canada as a teen. There is no difference between the conditions of many first nations communities than those of third world countries. Why ? Lack of money ? Lack of interest ? Inability to “change” the way things are ? Regardless of the many potential answers to these questions – there is no valid excuse. It is simply pathetic and deplorable. A coalition of government and First Nations members needs to be formed and not talk but action needs to be taken. 

    This is what happens in a democracy ? You have taken away the rights of people to live by their traditional means and left them with a 90% unemployment rate that leaves them out from participating in the economy…..this is pathethic!   

  43. we must as a nation, help these people get out of this situation and assist them in making pikangikum a place they want to live in, not die in.  I know they like to be thought of self sufficient but they have to realize that some who come in want to help.  how do we get involved in building homes, schools, provide the children some hope and ambition?  please i really want to know.  forget the hate and use that energy on something positive.  perhaps i see the world through rose coloured glasses but come on we all deserve a chance…….

  44. We need to either get these people back onto the land living their true traditional lifestyle or integrated into society in an urban setting.

    The people themselves and their leadership in the way that chiefs and the council only do for their own makes corruption in provincial and federal politics look petty.

  45. LOLZ i’m from pikangikum and these comments are funny to me. You Ignorant people. Blame the Christians, Blame the Residential schools, Blame money. Blame Alcohol. Nothing But the Blame game in here. the problem with moving is the kids, a rapid change like that for the kids could be traumatic, minimal at least. but what do i know i’m too dumb to figure things out for myself since i’m from a reserve. Stereotypical minds shouldn’t be listened to. if a town wants to trade places with us for a year. lets do it! LET’S DO IT!! in time you’ll want help from the Gov’t too. TSK TSK TSK, Ignorant Canadians

  46. Give the “Aid” directly to individuals on reserves, NOT THE CROOKED COUNCILS AND MILLIONAIR CHIEFS!

    •  The Chief is in Pik is nowhere close to a millionaire. He lives no better than the rest of his people. I’m trying to remember, but I don’t think that Jonah’s house is one of the ones with running water. Up until two years ago, the only houses that buildings that did have running water were the school, Northern Store, police and nursing stations. I always hear about millionaire chiefs, but I’ve never met one….and, I’ve known a LOT of Chiefs over the years.

  47. These people are suffering the consequences of having their identity stripped away and destroyed.  It is the saddest of all things that we have done.  We kidnapped people from their homes in Africa and turned them into slaves…in North America, we stole their homes from them and then stole their very heritage.  It is no wonder suicide rates are so high among First Nation Peoples. They come from one of most balanced, conscientious and noble peoples of the Earth.  They should be proud of and celebrate that fact.  They should embrace the old ways as much as possible – if their youth were taught the old ways, they would not be so lost and desolate.  I know I know little about this issue, but this is my opinion. I for one have great admiration for Native culture and believe that some day we may all need to turn to them to learn how to live in harmony with our world as they did for millenia before we destroyed it.  If it were possible, I would pay to go and live in a traditional Native village and learn their old ways; and I’m sure there are many others who feel the same way…if you are of Native American heritage, be proud of that.  Celebrate your heritage.  Honour your ancestors and learn their ways; and then teach them to your children and children’s children.   

  48.  Every name in this story….was someone who I personally know. I love the community of Pik, and there are a lot of wonderful ppl there. The biggest problem that I see is with the constant CRISIS funding….Pik currently receives about $5mil/yr in crisis funding over and above what other communities see. What the h*** does that do? Absolutely nothing.
    The issue is prevention….but it’s hard to get a government to back a youth recreational program when it’s easier to throw more Childen and Family Services workers and police officers at the families.
    I have known almost all the suicide victims in the last 5 years personally….you cannot imagine the level of failure that is felt when that happens.

    • The government you should be looking to for a youth rec centre is the tribal government.

      But as it has been shown in the past they are too cheap or would rather fix their own house before putting the future of the bands youth  on a path to a better ending.

      And lets face it can you say with a straight face that all bands with a youth centre have a better  youth satisfaction??

      What happened to making do from the land like your elders did when they actually lived off the land, doesn’t being self sufficient mean that you do not need all the crap that the white man has??

      •  Did I say youth centre??? No, I said youth program. There is a wonderful missionary woman there who works tirelessly with the youth. Why reinvent the wheel? Why not give her support in the area of allowing her to hire some youth to assist her with the rec programming. She exhausts herself to help as many as she can. The answer to everything is not a building or more capital expenditures. I’ve helped to set up youth councils in other places that had real power over their own fundraising efforts. Giving youth not only opportunities, but the responsibilities that went with it, gave them hope and pride. These are the types of programming that I’d like to see developed for the north.

  49. I’m a northerner….I’m going to school in Thunder Bay, so that I can also attend law school here. I grew up snaring rabbits, skinning beaver….and never knew what regular ground beef looked like frying in a pan until I was 23. Until then, I thought that you needed to add oil to a frying pan when doing ground meat, because I’ve been raised on moose and caribou. To me….TBay is a prison…people everywhere…I miss the land, and I’ll be glad to go home for the summer. City people don’t understand this compulsion, but that’s okay. We need them too…they just don’t always understand that they need us too.

    • So then you must be prepared to make do with less than what the residents of Thunder Bay have in the way of access to the amenities of living in a developed society.

      You cannot have the luxury of living in an area of no development and expect to pay the same prices and have the same access to goods as those in a more developed area.

      You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

      •  Excuse me? I’ll be doing law school, and I plan to practice in the north. In this day and age, do you really think that we need to be urban to succeed? One of my brothers is a networking and website consultant who works from his home. The days of being required to be in a specific place to do work are numbered. I was a social worker, and I’m retraining. I’m sick of the asinine government policies that only give money for crisis….when if just 10% of the money heading in that direction was given to youth recreational programming……We would start to see real change. I want to go back in the policy way.
        I’m not from Pik…I just love the people there. My community has between 8-20 people, depending upon the time of year. lol….The fishing’s some of the best that you will ever see. I love it, but right now, I can only spend my summers there due to school. I really don’t mind shopping for a month of groceries at a time and shipping them north when I go. That’s how I’ve always managed to stretch my dollar when I’m up north. It’s not possible for everyone, but it helps that I cook everything from ingredients…not pre made.

        •  Note: I used the word “government policies” not “Conservative” or “Liberal,” as there have been no real distinction between the two over the years. ;)

        • In a word yes.

          Life on a northern reserve will never result in a person and his family being able to succeed to the standards that they now expect.

          If the first nations where really willing to live off the land and live in a traditional manner then they would all be successful but the native population wants the ski-doo’s, ATV’s, trucks and guns that you have a hard time buying with meat or skins alone. So that means that he needs money and how does  someone in a remote community get money, government handouts for the majority of people. Some but not may will make a living but they are truly the exception and not the rule.

          And as for the asinine government policies look to the paternalistic my family  only mentality of the bands. Why should the tax paying Canadians continually bail out bands that could not handle their allotted budget in a prudent manner for a year??

          And do not even get me started on the condition of the housing in the reserves, these where all built and turned over brand new. The residents have run them into the ground and have absolutely no sense of pride in their habitat. I did not see one that looked like it had even been cleaned in the last 4 years.

          •  Then, you haven’t been in enough of them. I’ve seen houses that were so clean that you could have eaten off the floor. lol….To ease the housing shortages in other communities…they built their own log cabins. However, hydro one and Bell refused to run lines to them, because they were deemed temporary housing. Ten years later, these temporary houses have never been unoccupied. We have to allow bands to implement their own solutions instead of shackling them with building codes that do not make sense.

  50. I realize this article is 2 weeks old and so probably nobody will read this but its important so I wanted to share.

    Because the aboriginal diet was traditionally very dependent on fish, some people of aboriginal descent cannot synthesize EPA (omega 3 acid available from certain plans such as flax seed) into DHA (omega 3 acid available from fish oils).   Most people of caucasian descent are able to synthesxize DHA from EPA and therefore their body is able to supply the brain with essential DHA from plan sources.    This is not true for some aboriginal people.

    Now, since your brain needs DHA,  when certain aboriginal people stop eating fish, and turn to a modern diet of processed foods (with little to no DHA) or even a normal diet of meat and vegies (with little or no seafood), they experience depression and become very succeptible to alcoholism or substance abuse.  

    There is a rehab center in Oregon which was treating people, including many aboriginals, for substance abuse.   What they found is that certain aboriginal people which had not responded to treatment previously, were able to succesfully get through the program and kick the habit when given a daily supplement of DHA Omega 3.  They concluded that aboriginal people may have a genetic inability to synethesize DHA from EPA as a result of the 10000 plus years of relying of fish rich in DHA as a daily stable.  

    I would strongly recommend anybody of aboriginal descent who feels moody or tired, or has a tendancy towards alcoholism or substance abuse to take a daily supplement of Omega 3, with a strong component of DHA.    Its not expensive and its good for the heart and brain.

    If anybody want to know more,  I am happy to spend a little time looking for the original reference.

  51. i think that the government should take care of them more

  52. Like all the Chiefs do use favourtism, they only help family while others are hurt by their so called justice, for example, a girl who left family, friends and work, due to being with a non-native, it shows that racism is among this community, they should be dealing with teens rather than showing hate and teaching them that white people are the target. The Prime Minister is white and the Indian affair minister is white, Child Tax benefits and other etc. like deal with it. It should be taught that we are one, humans. Not hating everyone, but I’m hoping that my example will make it big, rumor has it that this person is in talks with the movie producers and an upcoming book that will seek out the truth. Justice will reveal secrets. Favourtism does not work well with Chief(s) it should be about helping everyone, not just family. But for everyone AMEN.

  53. GAS CAT LAKE FAMALE NOW 1985 -1997

  54. its too bad they didnt get to speak to the opp forvthis article. Also there are no white pine in their forest. Just jack pine.

  55. Our First Nation residents live in a fourth world conditions, first world country with third world living conditions puts them even lower than the refugees living in tent cities in the desert. We white people have to do a better job in assisting them become more productive members of society, instead of giving a fish, we need to teach how to fish. We need to develop access to these communities so they can transport the natural resources from their land to urban centres so they can export the goods and make a living.
    We need to wake up and clean up our backyard before we clean anybody else’s.

  56. my God, these are children dying… and all you see here is cold heartless people playing the blame game without an ounce of understanding the real issues underneath… it has been surveyed that 81% of Canadians have no concept of what Native politics are in Canada… most have no understanding of the treaties that govern THEIR lives… and yet the native people continue to suffer because of that… learn people, teach yourself, read…!!!

  57. Now how is it that only this reserve is having a rash of suicides among its young people.

    For decades all we heard from the Chiefs was give us the money and we will govern our own affairs…well that sure worked out well didn’t it.

    When 10 year old children are committing suicide there is clearly more going on then meets the eye.

  58. This is such a Canadian tragedy but more so an embarrassment that so few people know about the ongoing struggles of this community. A friend of mine and her husband moved there from Oshawa in August of this year. He is a high school teacher so you can imagine what he faces on a daily basis. As a small way of showing that people beyond the community care and show support SOCKS Pairs for Pikangikum ( is collecting as many pairs of SOCKS as possible to send to them. They will be distributed by the new high school wherever the need is visible. Baby, children Teens and adults need to know that people know and care about them. I have shared this article to the Facebook page to enlighten the masses. You (Martin) must have been devastated by the research into this article but WE MUST respond with action.