[Neskantaga FN] Not a drop to drink – by Kyle Edwards (MACLEAN’S Magazine – January 2019)


On a November afternoon, Casey Moonias, a 26-year-old mother of three, places firewood in her stove and soon it gives off the warmth and smell of charred lumber. The inside of her home is small and overcrowded with toys and piles of clothes.

Outside, like many houses on the Neskantaga First Nation, about 450 km northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont., a black-and-white husky is curled up in the snow by the doorsteps. After about an hour, when the house is warm enough, Moonias fills an electric kettle from a nearby jug, eschewing the water from her tap. Her community has had unsafe water for nearly as long as she’s been alive—unsafe not only for drinking but also, many residents say, for bathing. And this is bath time.

The day before, Ashley Sakanee, Moonias’s partner, fetched three plastic jugs of clean water, each holding four litres, from the community’s reverse-osmosis machine, a laborious process that requires him to trudge 10 minutes down an icy road to the local hotel to fill up, then pull the jugs back on a sled.

It’s a trip they make three or more times a week, often to find the machine has broken down or frozen. When that happens, they and the other roughly 300 people living in this First Nation are forced to rely on shipments of bottled water.

Members of the Neskantaga First Nation are set to take their first sips of safe tap water in 25 years. Many refer to it as ‘the moment,’ and it’s a matter of life and death, writes Kyle Edwards.

Moonias pulls out an inflated tub shaped like a rubber duck from another room and lays it on the living room floor. It takes seven minutes for the water to boil, at which point she pours it into the duck, mixing hot with cold from the jugs. One bath uses up an entire jug, and after feeling it with her hand, Moonias turns to her two-year-old son, Meeson, and says, “Now you can go in.” He splashes everywhere and briefly plays with a toy. His eight-month-old sister, Serena, watches in awe, before Moonias washes his body and hair.

For the rest of this article: https://www.macleans.ca/not-drop-drink/

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