Prairie Post (West Edition)
Recovery camps hoping to help the ‘Blackfoot Way’
Kii maa pii pii tsin (Kindness to Others) Renewal and Healing Centre is hoping to hold a series of two 28-day recovery camps this fall to help those trying to kick addiction among Lethbridge’s Blackfoot community.
The proposed camps, one for men and one for women, would run seven days at a stretch and include traditional healing and ceremony. They would be held on Blood Tribe community lands on the eastside of the reserve.
Kindness to Others founder Alvin Mills said it is important to remove those experiencing addiction from a negative environment on the streets of Lethbridge to a positive healing and spiritual environment in the countryside. Free from the distractions and influences of the city, it will allow them to work on the underlying grief and trauma which fuel their addictions, Mills says.
“In the city there is too many triggers,” states Mills. “There are triggers all over in the city. Drug use is rampant. But here in this kind of a setting it is very tranquil, and you can feel a presence.
“It hasn’t been done before (in this region),” he adds, “and it is going to be the Blackfoot taking care of the Blackfoot.”
Mills feels the cultural component is a vital part of recovery for local Indigenous people, and he is looking for broad support for his recovery camp initiative.
“This cultural component of my program was always there, and when they get to this recovery camp they start addressing the trauma, addressing the grief,” he states. “It’s going to be a huge undertaking, but I do have people to help. I will be asking the Blood Tribe and other surrounding nations if they could help in what way they can.
“I really do believe this recovery camp would work, and it is a great place to do it.”
Mills is being supported in this initiative by the Sik-Ooh-Kotok Friendship Society.
“We see a lot of our own people on the street, and a lot of those people I know personally either from school or in the community,” says Sik-OohKotok Friendship Society program coordinator Cody Weasel Head. “Growing up I was always told it takes a village to raise a child. I also believe it takes a village to heal our people who are struggling right now.”
Weasel Head says with the opioid crisis only worsening in the past year SikOoh-Kotok Friendship Society felt it is time to try something different.
“I believe a lot of things have been tried already,” he says. “It’s not that they are not working, but I believe it’s time for something new to come along and give it a go. I have always told my children and my family the people on the street are not so-called ‘bums.’ They are warriors, and right now they are just fighting a different battle. So this would be a good chance for Blackfoots to help Blackfoots the Blackfoot Way.”
Camp co-organizer Tyler Chief Calf, who was a founding member of The Sage Clan and is currently an accredited community addictions counsellor, says having a strong connection with nature is an important part of a longerterm recovery strategy for those wanting to move beyond grief, trauma and addiction in their lives, particularly when you are an Indigenous person.
“A change in atmosphere – being in the countryside – there is a different energy compared to being on the streets,” he says. “With my sobriety, July was 13 years. I went out to the countryside just like this, and it helped a lot. The energy, the prayers, having ceremony – the value of it, it is a key aspect in our way of life. Once (those taking part) feel it, and they feel that energy, it can come a long way toward showing them a different route in their lives.”