The Loss of Culture, Family, and Connection Due to COVID-19


​​​This article is one in a series of stories from Indigenous VaxChamps who have shared their reasons for getting vaccinated against COVID-19.


The interruption in cultural ceremonies and traditions has been a prominent issue for many Indigenous people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. ​For Cind​y Pete​, Gitdumden clan member living on Coast Salish Territory of Vancouver, the pandemic has meant a loss of culture, family, and connection.​

Without hesitation, Cindy lists several important reasons she chose to get vaccinated, some more personal than others. She, like many others, is driven by the desire to protect herself, her family, and the vulnerable people she works with.

Cindy has seen the effects of COVID-19 hit close to home and has suffered great losses during the pandemic. Her nephew Paul passed away from complications of a COVID-19 infection on Aug. 17, 2021, and her aunt Lillian is still fighting her own battle with the illness.

“We've lost so much. COVID-19 has taken so much," said Cindy. “Being together is part of our culture and we've lost that."

For five long months, Cindy says, Paul battled against COVID-19 infection. His health seemed to fluctuate; sometimes he was alert and able to communicate with family. However, in the end, Paul could not overcome the complications caused by the infection and his organs began to shut down. He was just 30 years old.

During his hospital stay, COVID-19 protocols meant that family and friends had to communicate primarily by virtual methods. However, that changed when his family received the call to come to the hospital immediately. Paul's health had taken a turn and his immediate family was allowed to be with him during his final hours. He passed away surrounded by loved ones. In the words of his grieving aunt, “he was so young, just a baby."

In the wake of this tragic loss, Cindy credits the hospital for working with the family and allowing them to provide cultural care in the hospital for Paul. The family was able to tend to him in his final moments and for his journey after death. While grateful for the opportunity to say goodbye, Paul's passing highlighted for Cindy what the pandemic has taken from them, from her family, community, and Indigenous people everywhere.

Traditionally, a community comes together to tend to the family after the loss of a loved one and that was a large missing piece for Cindy following not just Paul's death but others in her community as well.

Grieving had to happen at a distance. COVID-19 protocols meant that family and community members could not gather as they would normally. Cindy was able to return to her community to attend three funerals but was largely dependent on only her husband, daughter, and her daughter's partner to support her in her grief.

“We normally come together, we support the family, we bring meals, and COVID-19 meant that we couldn't do that."

Cindy's aunt Lillian also contracted COVID-19 and became very sick. She had to be transferred to Nanaimo for more advanced COVID-19 care, where she was put in an induced coma and spent time on a ventilator.

When the vaccine became available, Cindy did her research and spoke with her health care practitioners to get her questions answered. Ultimately, she decided that the vaccine was the best available option to keep herself, her family, and her community safe.

“COVID-19 stole so much from me and I'm learning how to stay safe. I have three vaccinations, I personally have taken precautions," said Cindy.

When asked what message she has for other Indigenous people who are hesitant to get the vaccine, Cindy is quick to answer that education is the most important. While she understands that people are scared or have their reasons for not wanting the vaccine—and she indicates that she has to respect their choices—​she also points out that there are many great resources and sources of information out there that could help.

Cindy wants people to ask their questions, do their research, and to reach out to their health care team.

“Educate yourself. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your nurse practitioner. Get the information."

Do you need to get vaccinated?

It's important that people age five and older get their first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as boosters when they are offered.

To register for a vaccine clinic, visit:

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines see:

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