The following is an excerpt from an email letter sent by a high school teacher in Pikangikum.
'I am writing this letter to share with you some things that you may not have heard about. I work and live in a small native community of 2200 people in NorthWestern Ontario, Canada, called Pikangikum (North of Red Lake). It is a fly-in community. 95% of houses have no running water. If you have recently watched the news you should be aware of the tragic gas sniffing problem in some native communities in Labrador (for example Davis Inlet). Pikangikum also has a serious sniffing problem among its young people (some sniffers are only 9,10 years old).
Our only school here has been closed since March 5, 2000 because of a severe diesel fuel spill. This accident has added another burden and great darkness to this community; the suicide rate has increased tremendously (at one time, there were three suicides in only 5 days). But we are recovering… Pikangikum now supports a recreation program; six young local people have been trained to be leaders to take charge of many indoor and outdoor activities for its youth in the near future.
We would appreciate any help you may offer us including your ideas. After reading this , please check your garage to see if your children have any old skates which do not fit them. We would be delighted to receive your old skates or a small donation to buy second-hand pairs. With your help the young people in Pikangikum will be able to skate on their beautiful frozen lake. Another day, if they think of suicide, when they look up at the miraculous sky, they may remem-ber that someone cares about them. Think of the difference we can bring to these people and feel their joy and our joy coming together. We thank you very much for your time and your gifts.'
Sincerely yours, Tuyen Nguyen