by John Copley
(ANNews) – On August 4-5, the St. Albert-based Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centres Society celebrated its 45th Anniversary with a traditional Powwow and a Drum competition that drew large audiences from around the region and beyond.
As it has done in past years PLTC reached out to youth, Elders, families, stakeholders and the general public with invitations to attend the free event at the powwow grounds adjacent to the lodge at 21058 Poundmaker’s Road near St. Albert’s eastern boundary. The free overnight camping area was a busy and much appreciated hub of activity for the many visitors who utilized the site. Arts and crafts venues complemented the venue as did the numerous catering trucks that offered an abundance of food choices throughout the weekend.
The event, noted Executive Director Brad Cardinal, “provides participants an opportunity to socialize and engage in our cultural activities and appreciate the richness of the cultural diversity within our community.”
The annual powwow, guided by Elders and aided by treatment facility staff, got underway both days with a 1 p.m. Grand Entry led by Indigenous veterans Wallace Bona and Chuck Stevenson, flag and staff carriers, Aboriginal Elders, Chiefs, special guests and dignitaries from various levels of government, including Alberta Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan.
Though the powwow was traditional in nature, the event hosted an Iron Man and Iron Woman Dance Competition and a Drum Contest that saw the top four places take home prize money; a new vehicle was awarded to both first place Iron winners.
High Noon, Sweetgrass, The Travellers, Running Thunder, Red Rose Thunder, River Cree, Spearpoint, Cree Boy, Crow Lodge, Sorrel Rider, Cree Selects, and Mountain Sioux were the 12 competitive drums vying for prize money. They were accompanied by seven non-competitive drums, including Grey Cloud, Cache Lake, Bear Street, Buffalo Cloud, Nakota Thunder, H-Town Cree and Flying Stone.
Siksika Nation Drum Group Sorrel Rider led the Grand Entry and later participated with drums from across the region and beyond that welcomed dancing grandmothers, women, children and adults, all of whom were dressed in beautiful regalia with colours and patterns too numerous to mention.
More than 340 dancers were joined by a weekend crowd that numbered over 2000. Lester Rabbitskin offered an opening prayer and a trio of Inuit singers – Sami Kirk, George Mantle and Robert Kelly – presented an Honour Song before shaking hands and thanking an appreciative audience for its warm response.
Throughout the afternoon comments from the podium honoured the Elders and acknowledged the “outstanding work being done by our firefighters, police services, armed forces and other who put their lives on the line” in an effort “to keep us all safe.”
The afternoon was filled with sunlight and high temperatures as the singers, drummers and dancers, each with an amazing capacity for bearing hot weather and heavy regalia, continued their up-tempo pace.
Patricia Makokis, Director of Indigenous Programs in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension, was invited to speak to the gathering about the importance of education.
“We have a booth set up today by the last teepee,” she noted, “and it’s ironic that when Brad asked me to say a few words we’d already been talking about culture and wellness for our Indigenous people. We were talking about how Poundmaker’s Lodge has been here for 45 years, an amazing accomplishment that needs to be acknowledged and celebrated.
“Today it is more important than ever to remember how important education is and how important health and wellness are to our wellbeing. Right now, in Canada there is a lot of talk centered around reconciliation but what we must first talk about and understand is the truth about the colonial history of this country. We must absolutely invite and encourage government, society and our red families to come together to understand that we all benefit from being on the land because our ancestors signed the treaty.
“It’s important that we all understand how we get to live on this land. The work being done here at Poundmaker’s is critical and very important, especially in the way we move forward because the aftermath of residential schools lives daily in the lives of our people.”
In a follow-up interview, Makokis spoke about the importance of bringing all Canadians together, to learn together and to understand what is needed to achieve true reconciliation. Her experience working with groups at the university has been positive and she is optimistic that change can happen if it’s achieved by working together.
“I know that when we bring black people, red people, brown people and yellow people – all of the families together and we allow a safe space to share our conversation, positive things begin to happen. When this happens, we see transformation and this is what gives me hope. Racism is still rampant in this country and if we don’t do everything we can to bring it to an end, it will continue. That’s why it is important to have your voice heard – for example Edmonton wants to establish a cultural and wellness centre for Indigenous people and that is a positive step in the right direction. Your voice matters so please get involved and get your families involved; if all Canadians work together we can put these misunderstandings behind us and we will all be better for it.”
Poundmaker’s Lodge, renown world-wide for its innovative leadership and proven addictions treatment programs, has a long and successful history that began in 1973.
Poundmaker’s annual powwow “features opportunities for our treatment centre to engage with the First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities as well as supporting those Albertans maintaining abstinence from drugs, alcohol and tobacco addictions,” stated Cardinal. “We believe ongoing engagement through cultural ceremony significantly improves health outcomes amongst our Aboriginal peoples and strengthens Alberta’s health care system.”
PLTC follows accreditation practices as well as Aboriginal Best and Promising Practices in Aboriginal Health.
“In addition,” noted Cardinal, “we have aligned with Alberta’s Addiction and Mental Health Strategy and continually ensure timely access to treatment thereby meeting the needs of its clientele. Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centres prides itself on its 45 year history of providing exceptional addiction and mental health treatment services to Indigenous populations.”
PLTC currently offers a 42 day adult residential treatment program and a specialized 90 day treatment program for young adults. The society also administers the Iskwew Healing Lodge, an aftercare facility for women.