Almost a year after a B.C. Indigenous family lost an unvaccinated loved one to COVID-19, members are finally bringing her ashes home to their traditional territory near Fort St. James, B.C.
Tyrone Joseph fought hard to promote science and vaccinations after his sister’s death but says his family is still dealing with the impact of misinformation. He hopes others can learn from their tragic experience in order to better protect each other.
“We need to cherish the time we have together,” the Tl’azt’en Nation member told Global News Friday. “Life is just so short and precious.”
Anna Joseph died from complications of COVID-19 in September 2021. She was 57 and unvaccinated with underlying health conditions.
“it’s a tragedy you know that she had passed way before her time,” said her brother Tyrone.
Before Anna’s death, Joseph posted a powerful Twitter thread sharing how she and her 30-year-old son, also unvaccinated, were fighting for their lives in the ICU at Vancouver General Hospital.
Joseph urged people to get vaccinated. He also joined the First Nations Health Authority vaccination campaign, explaining how his sister’s tragedy was entirely preventable. The message, he said, managed to sway some family members.
Read more: ‘Think about more than just yourself’: B.C. Indigenous family with loved ones in ICU urges vaccination
“Despite their personal misgivings about science or vaccines they have recognized that our loved ones are important and the ones we’ve lost — we wish they were here today,” Joseph said.
After eleven months of grieving, the family held a ceremony Saturday on their reserve in Tachie, B.C.
“COVID has totally disrupted all of our cultural norms,” said Joseph.
Joseph rode his motorcycle north from Kamloops to join family members from Vancouver on the Tl’azt’en Nation, where they spread his sister’s ashes.
“It’s especially important for us to bring Anna’s cremated remains there to be buried with my mother’s simply because that was kind of a role she filled in our family after my mother had passed ten years ago,” said Joseph.
Joseph said COVID isn’t over yet and his family is still living with its effects.
With the housing and opioid crises worsening during the pandemic, Joseph believes the division exposed over the last two years has exacerbated inequality.
“If this is the new normal, then we’ve learned nothing,” Joseph told Global News.
“We can’t continue like this. We need to love one another and be there for each other.”