Since launching in November of 2022, the Blackfoot Resource Hub in Lethbridge, Alta., has ramped up programming catered to the urban Indigenous community.
The hub offers up to four free sessions per week including workshops, visits to nearby Indigenous sites, and Blackfoot language classes.
“Part of what we’re doing is bringing cultural awareness back here to the city of Lethbridge,” said Karen Delaney, cultural specialist with the hub.
Programming is free, includes lunch, and is open to anyone.
“Not only are they leaving with knowledge, they’re leaving full,” said Joey Blood, cultural specialist, at Blackfoot Resource Hub.
Classes fill up quickly with up to 20 people attending each session, according to program administrator Lacey Eagle Plume.
Additionally, vulnerable people who feel displaced or disconnected are welcomed at the hub, with offerings of a smudging or a visit from a Blackfoot elder.
“This is kind of like a sanctuary for them to come and feel safe and to reconnect with their values, their traditions, their culture,” said Eagle Plume.
Blood references colonization, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, the whiskey trade, smallpox epidemic, and most recently, the opioid crisis that has affected Indigenous Peoples and contributed to intergenerational trauma.
“Through that trauma, through all those tough times, our teachings, our way of life, has managed to maintain,” said Blood.
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“Our goal is to plant seeds to go into recovery and perhaps lead their way into a healthier lifestyle and out of addiction,” said Eagle Plume in reference to those affected by the opioid crisis.
Transportation is also available to those who can’t get there on their own with Joey Blood behind the wheel.
“In the meantime, I can kind of build that connection just within that short drive from where they’re at to the office in hopes to break the ice a little bit, not just throwing them in there, and explain who I am and about the program,” said Blood.
Earlier this month, as part of a partnership with the Blood Tribe and Kainai Nation, Lethbridge city council voted to add up to $40,000 to the hub’s $500,000 yearly operating budget this year and next to support programming.
Eagle Plume is looking to add more staff in the near future, in hopes of expanding the hub’s overall offerings.
“We just try to point people in the right direction if they need help, and we are always here to support people,” said Eagle Plume.