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The Healing Lodge From Nekaneet’S Perspective

Edie Dean and Eloise Mosquito

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MARCH 1993      v22 n03 p05  
Much has been written about the Healing Lodge in recent months. It has been the topic of conversation over many cups of coffee in Maple Creek and on the Neekaneet Reserve but how does the local Aboriginal community view the prospect of having this facility in their "Backyard"? We asked a number of reserve residents just how they felt about this question.

In asking the question the fact became evident that the announcement that the Healing Lodge was coming to this area and the settlement of the Land Entitlements for the Neekaneet Reserve, both coming at the approximately the same time, has created the prospect of a lot of changes for these people, in a very short time. Some residents are finding it hard to cope with these impending changes. Some are skeptical about living in such close proximity to a Women's Prison not only in the security factor from the Healing Lodge residents themselves, but also in the numbers of visitors who may be coming to the facility. This is one of the concerns uppermost in the minds of some of the Neekaneet people.

Others view the building of the Healing Lodge on their reserve as a very positive thing. It will be job creating, both in the construction stage and in the operational stage. It will provide many with ongoing fulltime work and thus an opportunity to rid themselves and their and children of their dependency on the welfare system. Because the "healing" aspect of the Healing Lodge is based on Aboriginal beliefs and teaching, it will provide an opportunity for the Neekaneet Reserve to reinforce and cultivate their own Aboriginal culture and spiritual beliefs. This was one of the reasons that the Neekaneet Reserve was chosen as the Healing Lodge site, because it was one of very few reserves who still adhered to their traditional spiritual and cultural beliefs. Here will be an opportunity to maintain and preserve these traditions for generations to come.

As construction of the Healing Lodge progresses and as jobs and training opportunities present themselves, the Neekaneet people will adapt and feel comfortable with the changes taking place around them.

The young people in particular, look forward to these positive changes. They see work at the Healing Lodge as way to play a fulfilling and worthwhile role in society while at the same time maintaining their traditional culture and beliefs. It is a very positive venture.

There is a feeling also among some reserve residents that they now will have an opportunity to help those of their race who find themselves in less fortunate circumstances than themselves. A recent visit by some reserve members to the Kingston Prison for Women has only saved to reinforce this idea. They are a caring community.