2022’s National Indigenous Peoples Day brings new support for some vulnerable young Calgarians.
They’re turning to tradition to find hope for the future.
Indigenous elders gathered Tuesday in central Calgary to put up a teepee.
“Our teepees were round, like the nest of a bird,” Cree elder Charlene Burns said.
The teepee was going up outside the headquarters of Highbanks Society, an agency that provides housing and support programs for young mothers and their babies.
“All of our moms are leaving situations of poverty, violence, homelessness,” Highbanks program manager Shannon Johansen said.
“They’ve had a number of traumatic experiences in their young lives.”
Among Highbanks’ current clients is Aliyha Parsons-Racette, living in an apartment unit with her one-year-old daughter Kaliyah.
“It’s tough sometimes, but I wouldn’t change it for anything,” Parsons-Racette said.
More than half of the young mothers at Highbanks are Indigenous, with the agency marking National Indigenous Peoples Day by officially opening its new healing space.
“It’s known by its Blackfoot name, Pi-ta-kii, which means Eagle Women’s Centre,” Johansen said. “The eagle will take our prayers up to the creator.”
Johansen said the healing space will be an important part of providing support for Highbanks’ clients.
“We work really hard to help them overcome intergenerational trauma,” Johansen said.
Parsons-Racette said she and Kaliyah are benefiting from the programs at Highbanks.
“Whenever I need something or I need help or I need someone to talk to, I get lots of support,” Parsons-Racette said.
Johansen said the healing space is a welcome addition for all Highbanks clients and staff.
“Myself, as a Cree-Métis woman, I am learning as well,” she said.
“Learning language and culture and ceremony is so important, not only for Indigenous moms, but for our non-Indigenous moms, because we’re creating the allies of tomorrow.”