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Community Caring Spotlight: Tulít’a

 May 15, 2020
Posted by NWT Recreation and Parks Association

Elders and older adults experience isolation during normal times, and now while we’re asked to stop visiting them in-person, isolation is an even bigger risk.

Each week, we’re featuring different NWT communities in a Community Caring Spotlight to share what northerners are doing to support Elders through the COVID-19 pandemic. If you know of a community program supporting Elders, let us know admin@nwtrpa.org


The Hamlet of Tulít’a is a tight knit community in the Sahtú where everyone checks in on Elders to see how they are doing.

While folks may not be able to gather for cookouts at the arbour yet, Sister Celeste does a meal program of mostly country foods 1-2 times a week through her Child Development Centre and runs programming for Elders. 

The community has also rallied together to turn the Cultural Centre into a greenhouse, and is busy building a new community greenhouse! Nearly everyone in the community is getting the community garden organized with plots available and bedding plants, seeds, tools, soil, and water provided; while the Tulít’a Community Gardening Society is planting, watering, and transplanting bedding plants for community use. Some of the community produce will be handed out to Elders and with the Cultural Centre full of thousands of plants and a host of community members, like Alison DeJong Tomczynski, making it all happen, we’re sure their harvest will be a good one.

Dean Bernard, Principal at Chief Albert Wright School, explained that one of the highlights in programming reaching Elders has been the traditional language classes done over the radio due to COVID-19. The School infuses Dene Kede curriculum with those of Alberta and the NWT to facilitate enriching learning experiences for all, and Elders are taking part! For one hour each week, the school’s Aboriginal Language Specialists Vivian Pellissey (an Elder herself) and Rosemary Andrew speak and teach over the radio. Elders are phoning in to share stories or to talk about their day in their language, which has been a great way to connect and share in a time when it’s needed most but not always possible to do in person. Tune in at 103.9!

If you’re looking for ideas you can bring to your own community, let Tulít’a be your inspiration. Recreation Coordinator, Matthew Cybulski, is doing a great job with the Hamlet of Tulita – Recreation Facebook public group and there are plenty of activities going on!

We’ve put together some highlights:

  • Sister Celeste does a meal program for Elders once or twice a week (mostly country food) through her Child Development Centre.
  • The Tulít’a Gardening Society and community members have transformed the Cultural Centre into a green house and are providing community members with plants.
  • The community garden is getting organized by many community members and the harvested produce will be given to Elders and other community members.
  • Traditional Language classes over the radio have Elders participate by calling in to share stories or to talk about their day.
  • Chief Albert Wright School emptied their pantries to put together On the Land food hampers to help get Elders and community members on the land.
  • The school is also been doing monthly food drops for Elders.
  • Family and Special Event radio shows (ie. Mother’s Day, Yamoria/Easter) with special inclusion segments focused on Elder Participation.
  • Mackenzie River Ice-Break-up Pool with over 25% Elder participation!
  • Yamoria Gospel Singing submission.
  • Weekly Elder arts & crafts program centralized around Elder participation starting mid-July.
  • Vegetable & Fruit distribution to Elders in partnership between Hamlet of Tulita Recreation Department and the Community Gardening Society.
  • Amazing Race Tulita during 25th Annual Fire Day Celebration: Specific challenges based upon Elder approval for completion of a stage. (Elder Approval needed via thumbs up or thumbs down from observing Elder before proceeding during Cultural Tea Dance Challenge).
  • Commemorative 25th Anniversary Video with interview portion from 4-6 Elders sharing their perspective on the great fire of 1995. Used as an educational tool for younger generations and community transplants. Elder perspectives gathered include; first responders/volunteers, evacuees, and people here during the fire.
  • Community fitness tracker launched with a specific chapter for Elder fitness participation. This was formatted by collaboration between the multi-skills coach and Matthew Cybulski.

Thank you to Tulít’a, for sharing their programs and the big ideas ahead for the Elders and older adults they value so much!

Tthebacha/Fort Smith

We are so proud of the Fort Smith Elders in Motion leaders!

After having 6 residents certified in #EldersinMotion leader training this past fall, the community has reignited its EIM momentum once more. They’re providing online videos for isolated residents to stay fit from home and keep their activity going through the pandemic.

What else is this community doing to support Elders? A lot!

  • The Mission Historic Community Garden offers Elders and other residents a place to get active, outside and to make things grow. To register a space contact dseals@fortsmith.ca
  • The Fort Smith Food drive continues to provide food hampers to vulnerable residents of all ages. Contact 872-8228 for more information.
  • To access the Fort Smith Recreation online Elders in Motion videos, visit the Town of Fort Smith’s Youtube channel where they’ll be posting a series of videos to help Elders stay mobile, strong, and flexible. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKh0Oe8ntLw&t=30s
  • The Town of Fort Smith, NT is running a variety of physical activity challenges to keep residents of all ages active during this time of physical distancing. Whether it’s snapping a selfie of yourself getting active to win prizes, or sharing your progress online towards the 31km in 31 days challenge!

Fort Smith is doing a great job supporting Elders through this time. Thanks for inspiring us Fort Smith!

Hay River and K’atł’odeeche

One thing that we’ve heard from all over the territory is that although we need to be careful when interacting with our Elders, intergenerational learning is still happening: people of all ages are getting out on the land across the territory more than ever!

Dale Loutit and Tom Makepeace from the Hay River Seniors’ Society (HRSS) say it’s no different in Hay River and K’atł’odeeche. Whether Elders are working in their greenhouses and yards to grow food, getting out with their families to hunt and camp, or fishing where they still can this time of year—on the land activities are strong. 

The HRSS is sending out weekly newsletters to all members with public health guidelines, community events and opportunities, news, services and support for older adults and a lot more. 

And the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre continues to offer services to the Elders around the area. This includes grocery shopping and drop-off, yardwork, sidewalk shovelling, checking-in on health and medications, and a lot more. This allows Elders to stay home, stay safe, and stay connected through the friendship centre. Call the friendship centre at (867) 874 – 6581 to sign up an Elder for a service.

In addition to these fantastic services, there is a lot happening for people of all ages that greatly benefit our Elders:

To all community leaders in Hay River: Thank you for inspiring us all this week! Keep up the great work! 

Líídlįį Kúę/Fort Simpson

Many are taking advantage of increased funding for things like food, supplies, and gas to take their families out on the land. This is a time when people would usually still be at work and at school, so being out on the land during break-up is special.

“There are so many people and organizations doing the best they can to ensure the needs of the community are being met. People have not given in, and people are not being left behind.”

— Roslyn Firth, Líídlįį Kúę Wellness Coordinator

Many Elders don’t have access to the internet, so radio is key during this time to communicate public health measures, information, and entertainment. The local radio station is running programs to keep people in the loop and feeling connected:

  • Jigging competition; send videos in to the station
  • “Calling all Elders” – The station names an Elder on-air; if they call in to the station to check in and chat, they win a prize!
  • A local fiddler is recorded and aired for 30 minutes per week
  • Wellness workers & community health staff broadcast helpful public health information daily
  • Weekly community announcements in Dene Zati
  • Weekly #EldersinMotion exercises for Elders to follow along at home

Physical Activity:
“Walk to the Ferry and Back” walking program. There are already 60 people participating! It’s a great way for people to connect with one another in a physically distant way.

Elder Check-ins:
Health and Wellness staff put together meals & food hampers through the local soup kitchen, and deliver them to Elders who are isolated to their homes. This is also an opportunity to visit, check-in, and make sure that everything is going well at home.