Red Women House: First recovery centre for Indigenous women opens in Calgary

‘From having nothing, sleeping beside my daughter on a single bed in a basement. It brings me hope.’

Shannon Little Light puts the kettle on then relaxes in her new living space – in silence inside Red Woman House in Calgary.

It isn’t something she is used to.

After struggling with addictions for 16 years, the mother from Siksika Nation can finally kick up her feet and take time to focus on herself.

She is the first resident of the Red Woman House, Calgary’s first recovery home for Indigenous Women.

“I was couch surfing. I had no home. If I didn’t have anywhere to go it was always my parents’ house and their house was just packed. So there was basically no room for me,” she said.

“I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere in my life.”

Little Light is now five months sober.

“When I moved in here, I laid on the couch,” she said with a laugh

“I laid on the couch, I made my coffee, I put it there. I brought my books because I like reading. I needed this to be able to concentrate.”

After spending a week at the home, Little Light said she realized just how important housing is while recovering.

“From having nothing; sleeping beside my daughter on a single bed in a basement. It brings me hope. It makes me feel at peace with my life.”

Red Woman House
Shannon Little Light inside her living space at the Red Woman Centre.

The home is a collaboration with Oxford House and Poundmakers Lodge Treatment Centre.

The name Red Woman House was presented through prayer and ceremony.

It’s a translation from the Plains Cree term Mihkoskwew Kamik and Blackfoot – Mooh Aakii Kookaan.

The recognition meaning given was to honour all women for their life-giving gift, their journey through the healing process, and to recognize missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The five bedrooms, two bathrooms, study area and living room in Red Woman House will provide a home for five women to provide structure.

“My life was very unstructured. I couldn’t get involved in relationships, healthy relationships,” said Little Light. “I couldn’t do a lot of things because of the abuse and addictions.”

Little Light said she began substance abuse at a young age. She said there are many factors that turn youth to alcohol and drugs. Overcrowding housing is one of them.

“With housing there’s not very many units for everybody to have their own home. It’s packed. Every single corner of the house is packed.”

Now, she’s getting back to her roots, attending ceremonies, and going back to school in August.

She said she will be living at the Red Woman House for as long as it takes to fully recover.

“Every time I see the executive director [of Oxford House], I’m always thanking him. Because he gave me an opportunity to regain my life.”

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