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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C – A new COVID-19 vaccination clinic for First Nations people opened in Fort St. John Tuesday morning.

The pop-up clinic at the Centennial Park festival plaza is open from June 15 to 17, providing Moderna vaccinations to indigenous, Métis, and Inuit people living in the city and surrounding area.

The First Nation Health Authority opened the clinic with several dignitaries in attendance and a traditional healing song sung by members of Blueberry River First Nations.

Blueberry River Chief Marvin Yahey said the arrival of settlers from Europe and beyond created a significant health threat to his ancestors, bringing smallpox, Spanish flu, and other illnesses.

Traditional songs, drumming, and connection the land continue to hold great healing power, Yahey said.

“It’s important that people understand and have cultural awareness of the Dane-zaa people: what we practice, the stories, what we sing,” said Yahey. “It takes more than just a speech for people to understand.”

“The first case of COVID in the northeast hit Blueberry, I can’t remember which month it was, but I saw a community really pull together, the leadership and the health director with the support of the First Nations Health Authority,” said Lambert.

Julie Morrison, acting vice-president for the FNHA’s northern operations, said the clinic is a unified effort.

“We’re really glad to be back here in the northeast, to provide vaccines to the communities that we provide service to,” she said. “We know it’s not the warm weather we were hoping for today, but we want to create a warm environment inside.”

As of June 10, 46% of residents 12 and older in Fort St. John and the North Peace had received at least one dose of vaccine.

Walk-ins are accepted at the clinic, or people can register for an appointment by calling 1-833-384-4001.

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