As the city of Yellowknife completes its new hospital and most expensive project to date, Indigenous people are setting out into the bush to set up their own healing centre.
With every screw, and nail residents of Denendeh are one step closer to healing on the land – while in the city.
Donald Prince once lived on the streets – until he turned to the land.
“We are familiar in the bush and while this is still in the city it is still in the bush,” said Prince. “We are using this place as something that is not available for people.”
Prince is part of the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation.
It’s a not for profit organization created a year ago to help at-risk Inuit, Dene and Metis people.
Clients will soon be able to drop by for cultural teachings and traditional land-based interventions.
William Greenland is a counsellor with the foundation.
He said the centre will operate independently of government and will, therefore, be more suited to Indigenous peoples.
“People who are going to be working on this project and the clientele that we are going to be receiving can relate to each other,” he said.
“Have something in common, something that we all know about – how we were raised. We talk about traditional values.”
Watch Charlotte’s TV story about Yellowknife’s healing centre
New centre will allow people to stay closer to home
The Northwest Territories doesn’t have addictions or mental health treatment centres.
At the moment, people are sent down south for help.
Currently, 41 people are outside of the NWT receiving treatment for alcohol, and drugs, or accessing mental health services.
This centre will allow them the choice to stay closer to home to relieve holistic counselling.
It is also going to function as a bridge for those waiting for treatment down south and returning.
“It is about time that something like this in the Northwest Territories a traditional healing camp like this is coming to our people,” said Greenland.
Patients who use the facility will have access to everything from sweats to traditional foods and medicine, counselling, drum ceremonies and spiritual guidance from Elders.
“If you can help a person from their whole being as opposed to… for example going to counselling for mental or emotional. What we are trying to do is look at the eating habits and a whole bunch of things, how you care for your body,” said Prince.
Grand opening is April 24
The foundation was awarded a one-million dollar prize for its vision – but to stretch the money, all board members are volunteers.
The board is negotiating with the federal government for long-term financial support of the centre.
It is open to anyone who is struggling with mental health, addictions, loss of identity, residential school survivors and victims of trauma.
The Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation will have its grand opening on April 24.