A helping hand
Tiffany Oakes helps Nekaneet’s urban band members get through the pandemic
by Logan Oakes
At Nekaneet First Nation in southwestern Saskatchewan, people know Tiffany Oakes as a renowned hockey player. But these days she’s also known as a lifeline to urban band members isolated by the pandemic.
When social distancing and shutdowns were put into place province-wide in early 2020, there was an immediate need for essential food packages to be delivered.
Nekaneet is a small First Nation located 121 km southwest of Swift Current. Of the band’s 407 members, just 167 live on-reserve. The First Nation was determined all its members who needed help should receive it, no matter where they live.
When the band put out a call on Facebook for someone to deliver food to members living in Regina, Oakes happily volunteered.
Oakes said it was her “a moral responsibility” and that she “felt it was important to be able to provide” for others in need. She stepped up despite her busy schedule studying regional and urban planning at the University of Saskatchewan while also working as a part-time property manager in Regina.
There were challenges when delivering food packages. She volunteered to provide food packages during three periods of the shutdown. The second out of the three was the hardest because “there was so much the second time. I had to do a lot of sorting and stuff like that.”
She also had to work harder to coordinate food deliveries and pick-ups around her other responsibilities.
Still, she didn’t regret helping because she had “the means, plus the car, and the time, especially during this shutdown and everything.” The pandemic was so tough on community members that she gave some of her own things to help people.
Oakes credits her small community of Nekaneet First Nation for her strength. The Nation was never forcibly removed and continues to live on its original territory and remains “true to its traditions,” according to researcher Stephanie Hayman
For Oakes, following traditions means “if you have the means to help other people, I feel you should.”