by John Copley
(ANNews) – Poundmaker’s Lodge and Treatment Centre hosted its first-ever Iskwew Healing Lodge fundraiser at the Italian Cultural Centre on October 10, in a bid to raise the extra money needed to maintain and upkeep the treatment facility that houses women during their road to recovery from drug and alcohol issues. The evening event included a silent auction that saw dozens of paintings, artifacts, tools and other goods set up in a separate room so that guests could view the merchandise and record their bid.
The evening opened with a prayer and the placing of a ceremonial shawl to honour Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The procession was led by four Elders – Eva Beretti, Hazel McKenneth, Isabel Auger and Alvina Lake and accompanied by Poundmaker’s Spiritual Advisor, Robert Johnson. They were joined by Fawn Wood and her mother Sydney Jimwood, who started the procession with a song befitting the ceremony.
Amanda Woodward took to the stage and delighted the audience with her skillful flute-playing. Other entertainers to perform during the course of the evening included Justin Glandon, William Belcourt, Leanne Goose and rap band Young Medicine. The entertainment was spectacular, but not in the sense of pyrotechnics or excessive loudness. Each entertainer brought appreciation and applause from the crowd; heads and hips grooved to the uptempo while closed eyes and smiles of personal vision greeted the flute players and soloists.
St. Albert mayor Nolan Crouse and his wife Gwen were among the guests at the event, an evening that saw the mayor co-MC with Lewis Cardinal, a well known and respected communications, governance, and education policy and project development professional.
“I’m just thrilled to be here at this first annual fundraiser for this organization,” beamed Mayor Crouse. “It’s almost a sellout with 250 seats sold for the event. The whole community should be proud of this; the support has been tremendous. Lewis and I both volunteered and have teamed up a bit to loan our leadership and words to this great cause.”
From the podium, Mayor Crouse introduced several distinguished guests, including St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud and Peace River MLA, Deputy House Speaker Debbie Jabbour, “both of whom are extremely talented and very dedicated to the cause here tonight. I ‘d also like to acknowledge some very hard workers whose effort has culminated in this event this evening.
“The Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centre is a wonderful and well known accredited Canadian organization and council, under the leadership of many, including its Executive Director Brad Cardinal and Board Chair Jim Brule.”
The cheers and applause for both leaders were loud and long, causing MC Crouse to note: “Wow – you are a real rock star Brad!”
“In the fall of 2013 Poundmaker’s Lodge opened the Iskwew Healing Lodge,” he continued.
“We are now seeing the success of this initiative; we have multiple success stories from the women who have entered the program and have (later) found meaningful employment or entered university or some other educational program. We are honoured to be a part of their healing journey.”
One of the women who has achieved success is Courtney Dawn, a young woman who entered the program last year and is nearing the end of her healing journey. She spoke to the gathering and offered a testimonial to the outstanding work being done at Poundmaker’s and the Iskwew Healing Lodge.
“I got myself addicted to alcohol and drugs when I was just 14 years old,” she said in a short address to those in attendance. “In September 2013 I entered Poundmaker’s 90 Day Program and later entered Poundmaker’s Esquao Lodge for Women. My life has really changed for the better. The 90 Day Program really had an impact on me and at the Esquao Lodge I came to realize that there is hope; there is something good out there for me. It helped me understand that I can be the woman I want to be; the confident, smart, self-confident Aboriginal woman the Creator wants me to be. I returned to school, I recently moved into a new apartment and I am working towards my degree as an addictions counsellor at Norquest College.
“I am very grateful to Poundmaker’s and the programs I was involved in; they have made a very big difference in my life and I will always be grateful. Just having a place where you can come and let loose and have support and have people who care, really encourages sobriety and a better way of life. I am here today and I am sober today because of the support I received. I am confident that this new partnership will enable others to do what I have done – get sober.”
Poundmaker’s Lodge and Treatment Centre Executive Director Brad Cardinal addressed the gathering and noted: “When the hearts of our women are on the ground we have lost life and our future as an Aboriginal community. Having Courtney come up here and share her life story is a shining example of how our women’s hearts are rising from the ground and giving us back our future. Tonight’s gala supports and celebrates the importance of women, our life givers. It is important that we all consider the significance of our women; we all equally share that responsibility.”
Cardinal said that when he thinks of women the first two that come to mind are his mother and grandmother.
“Both of these women instilled values in me that I still carry to this point in my life – those values of kindness and caring, integrity and most importantly the recognition of human life and for those who’ve come before us and those who will come after. These values continue to remind me of the importance of the Iskwew Healing Lodge. Without these types of programs, which are integral to our healing and wellness, the child suffers, the family suffers and the community suffers.”
Thanking the community for their support for the Iskwew Healing Lodge and the fundraising dinner and silent auction, Cardinal also noted, “Our staff work hard on a daily basis to ensure that we can continue to operate the program, which has helped countless women to achieve recovery. I bring you greetings from the Board, staff, Elders and clients of Poundmaker’s Treatment Centre – all of those individuals who continue to have a spiritually invested interest in our operations. We would like to acknowledge the Elders who have supported both Poundmaker’s and the Iskwew Healing Lodge. Our Elders continue to validate our important work. They are a valuable resource to us as they support our clients, staff and Board. Thank you also to the political leaders who came here tonight and have shown their commitment to women in recovery.”
Poundmaker’s Lodge and Treatment Centre, is a co-ed addiction treatment centre in St. Albert, Alberta. Established in 1973, Poundmaker’s Lodge is a leader in the provincial, national and global addiction treatment community. The Iskwew Healing Lodge, noted Brad Cardinal, “was established in 2013 as a support service to our Aboriginal ladies who come through our 42 and 90-day programs to achieve sobriety and recovery and for ladies who require on-going recovery support.”
The program isn’t necessarily limited to a specific time frame, especially if additional support is required.
“The ladies can basically stay as long as the need is there; some people need a longer recovery period to ensure longstanding abstinence and at the same to be in a safe and secure environment. During their stay they have the opportunity to work toward training and employment opportunities. During their stay at Iskwew they have access to psychologists, Elders, therapists and counsellors; we find that ladies achieve a higher rate of success when these types of wrap-around services are available to them. We often hear from the ladies that this is what they were looking for and it was something that they hadn’t been able to achieve in the past because there really wasn’t that one service that could provide them with all of the necessary needs – all rolled into one.
“We use an Aboriginal therapeutic community model which is a very unique program; in fact there is nothing else like it in Canada. It’s a program that was developed by the Elders of our community. First and foremost, the program was wrapped in ceremony where tobacco and prayer were among the offerings “so the program could be established in the way it was meant to be.”
During the past year about 50 ladies have been accepted into the program.
“That numbers varies,” explained Cardinal, who noted “that some of the clients have stayed longer – anywhere from three weeks to six months, depending on their individual needs. Our program is tailored to the needs of each person enrolled in it. We don’t dictate how long a person should stay, instead we help them to develop a treatment plan while they are in the program.”
“The gala tonight,” explained Iskwew Healing Lodge Manager, Georgina Iverson, “is to help raise money for the program and the proceeds we raise will go directly to the program. At this point in time we are not government funded, though we do have hopes that the province will consider that option once the budget comes out later this month.
“We’ve been meeting with various government ministries; our goal is to continue to meet with government and our hope is that this will ultimately lead to secure funding in the future.”
Premier Notley has already ordered funding that was cut to Alberta’s Women’s Shelters by the former Conservative government to be returned to them, something that gives Cardinal hope that the province recognizes the importance of providing the necessary funds to ensure that women are nurtured and safe.
“We are hoping that the government will see the value of our Aboriginal services, specifically at the Iskwew Healing Lodge, and step up to the plate to help support these services. We have a proven track record, we’re an accredited Aboriginal agency and we provide services that are really unique to Aboriginal populations.”
Poundmaker’s Lodge and Treatment Centres and the Iskwew Healing Lodge provide tele-mental health services, psychologists, therapists, Elders and more. If you want to be healing and really moving forward in your recovery, Poundmaker’s is the place to be.