A northeastern Ontario First Nation has turned to humour to encourage young Indigenous people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, located west of Greater Sudbury, received a $25,000 grant from the Public Health Agency of Canada to host a video competition to encourage young people to get fully vaccinated.
“One of the things we’re seeing with respect to the demographics is there is a bit of a skew towards younger people, in particular younger males that aren’t getting vaccinated with as high a frequency as some other demographics,” said Sean Cassidy, Sagamok Anishnawbek’s communications coordinator.
“And there’s not many better ways to target people under the age of 30 than with TikTok or YouTube, because that’s what they relate to.”
Cassidy has credited Nicole Eshkakogan, Sagamok Anishnawbek’s director of community wellness, with the idea to turn to young storytellers to reach their peers on social media.
“I think what we’ve seen across Indigenous Canada and the United States is that COVID-19 has produced an opportunity to bring back our culture and our way of knowing,” Eshkakogan said. “I have never seen so many Indigenous artists from our grassroots up to our professionals really taking the lead on keeping our people safe and helping us to choose fun over frustration when it comes to the health impacts of COVID-19 within our communities.”
Cassidy said they received video submissions from as far as Alberta.
The grand prize winner, Sean Morriseau, of Fort William First Nation, near Thunder Bay, made a comedy video on TikTok, in which he played himself, and his uncle. In the video he convinces his uncle, who is hesitant, that the vaccine is safe and will protect him from COVID-19.
Morriseau received $2,500 for his winning submission. The runner-up, Eagle Blackbird of Walpole Island First Nation, near Near Chatham, Ontario, received a $1,500 prize.
Indigenous hip hop artist Talon Fire Bird, who goes by the stage name MightyBigBird, came in third place, and received $1,000.
Campaign shows early success
Cassidy and Eshkakogan said they plan to measure the campaign’s success by comparing their community’s vaccination numbers before and after the videos.
Cassidy said early numbers have been promising.
“At the last mobile vaccination clinic, we did get a little bit better turnout than we were initially anticipating, which was really pleasant to see,” he said.
That most recent clinic resulted in 70 vaccinations, he said, and many of the people who received their shots were the younger demographic they’ve targeted with the videos.
With its early success, Sagamok Anishnawbek is in the running to receive $100,000 from the Public Health Agency of Canada to continue its video campaign. The First Nation is competing with similar projects across the country, and will know by the end of September if it received the grand prize.