A northern Saskatchewan wellness camp is receiving funding stability from the provincial government.
The province has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Kineepik Métis Local #9, which operates the Muskwa Lake Wellness Camp in Pinehouse.
The committed dollars allow the camp to continue providing northern residents with cultural mental health and addictions support.
“It’s been ran on a limited capacity financially for all these years,” said Kimberly Smith, health and wellness manager for Kineepik Métis Local #9.
For the past 40 years, the camp has survived off of volunteers, donations and support from the Northern Village of Pinehouse.
“The increase in the heavier drug use has really impacted most rural and northern communities at a rate that it’s hard to keep up with,” said Smith, hoping the province’s commitment inspires other programs to start up.
“Anybody in any community can start how we started at our grassroots level and then hopefully build up.”
Smith said the Muskwa Lake Wellness Camp provides a holistic approach to healing. Historically, it’s strictly focused on drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
“The south follows a lot of ceremonial traditions. Our ways in the north are land-based, which are really tied and connected to the land, and that’s where a lot of our learning is.”
This includes activities such as fishing, filleting, berry picking, making bannock and listening to Elders. Staff also provide employment support, such as helping purchase equipment, get government IDs, and build resumes.
It follows a braided approach, explained Smith, between western, First Nation and Métis values.
“When we talk about suicide, family dysfunction, lack of employment, what our program does is try to build up the whole individual, by not just addressing one component of their life,” she said.
On Tuesday, the Saskatchewan government announced it’s providing $246,000 to the camp. Smith said the money will be used towards building three cabins and a main lodge, which will allow the program to run year-round.
The MOU includes $700,000 in operational funding for this fiscal year. According to a news release, this allows 105 people to access its services.
"I want to thank Muskwa Lake Wellness Camp for the work they have done and continue to do in delivering culturally responsive care for Saskatchewan residents,” said Tim McLeod, mental health and addictions minister.
Smith said the late Leonard McCallum started the program.
Struggling with addictions himself, he travelled to several rehabilitation centres in the south. But when he’d return, he’d fall back on his alcohol use.
Smith said their approach has changed since then to address generational trauma, ensuring the health of Indigenous people lasts into the future.
“The world right now is designed to disconnect all of us. We, as humans, have a need for connection,” she said.
“We have to reclaim and almost fight for that peace back.”
Jayda Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald