LONDON, ONT. -- Efforts are underway to help deliver vaccines to First Nation communities in familiar and culturally aware settings across southwestern Ontario.

Hosted by N’Amerind Friendship Centre, a special clinic is being held Friday and Saturday, with a goal to administer vaccines to Indigenous peoples, (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) in the London area.

The Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (SOAHAC), N’Amerind Friendship Centre, Atlohsa Family Healing Services and the Middlesex-London Health Unit are partnering to assist with its rollout.

Brian Hill, from the Oneida of the Thames First Nation and board of directors' president for N’Amerind Friendship Centre, has been working on the ground to transform the support centre into a temporary vaccination clinic.

Hill says his goal is to help protect Indigenous community members, a population adversely impacted by COVID-19.

“The Indigenous people and people of colour have been identified as higher risk because it's in our nature to gather, it is not just a community it is a family.”

Brian Hill
Brian Hill with the N’Amerind Friendship Centre in London, Ont. on April 21, 2021. (Jordyn Read/CTV London)

Hill says vaccine hesitancy exists within their community, following years of trauma and mistrust caused by colonization.

"Being visible minorities, all that residential school trauma we carry…that is something we still carry. And that's where that hesitancy is born from, it's that broken trust.”

Hill was vaccinated in March of 2020 at the Western Fair District Agriplex. He says it was an anxious and unfamiliar experience for him, which drove the two-day clinic initiative into fruition.

The clinic, being held at 260 Colborne St., is designed to engage those who may not feel comfortable in a traditional health care setting like the Agriplex.

“Having this vaccination site here will give them that comfort, knowing they are going to a familiar place, knowing that they can go somewhere and get some help and we have spiritual supports too.”

St Clair College vaccination site in Windsor Ont.
St Clair College vaccination site in Windsor, Ont.

A similar initiative was created in Windsor, Ont. in Feb. 2021, located at the St. Clair College Sportsplex vaccination site.

Indigenous registered nurse, Sara Williams, has been in charge of the vaccination rollout.

Williams says the site is culturally aware and is made for Indigenous communities.

“We have decorated here…also all the rooms have tribal print curtains, there is local artwork in the rooms along with dream catchers. They’ve felt safe and that is the whole goal.”

Williams said the new site has encouraged further vaccinations among First Nation populations.

“People are coming in and saying their friend got vaccinated here and had a great experience, so I went ahead and booked an appointment.”

Williams says the clinic began back in February and is still running.

St Clair College vaccination site in Windsor Ont.
St Clair College vaccination site in Windsor, Ont.

Each day, approximately 50 Indigenous people are receiving their first doses.

Back at N’Amerind, approximately 200 appointments have been booked over the two-day period for ages 18 and up.

“I am very excited, it's going back to being able to provide something that our people need,” said Hill.