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Invited dignitaries and special guests from various organizations, communities and governments were on hand to pay tribute to the Agency and its five-year endeavour toward establishing the Child and Family Services program.
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Chief Perry Bellegarde commented, "The recent grand opening of the File Hills Child and Family Services is very fundamental to our First Nation people because it is basically repatriation of our children back to Indian control and back into our own homes, back into our own communities."
The five member First Nations, Little Black Bear, Starblanket, Okanese, Peepeekisis and Carry the Kettle, have become the twelfth child and family services to open since 1993. "It is, however, only the beginning," announced Patricia Thomson, Chair of the Board of Directors.
Dianna Nason, Program Director, reiterated Thomson's comments and said, "Now the real work begins."
Okanese First Nation Chief Mary Ann Daywalker-Pelletier also expressed her concerns that the return of children to the Agency requires committed federal funding, especially the federal fiduciary responsibility under treaty. "We're bringing our children home but more funding is needed."
Many speakers addressed the importance of children to the community and expressed the need for programs such as Child and Family Services. "Children are our greatest gifts," stated Carry the Kettle First Nation Chief James O'Watch.
The File Hills Agency provided another example of communal effort when an official sod-turning ceremony for the File Hills Health Centre was held the following day on the Okanese First Nation.
Rabbit Hill was selected by community Elders as "a good clean site" explained Master of Ceremonies and local Starblanket First Nation member Fred Starblanket. The site was said to be a communal area used to teach and educate the young. It was also described as a healing center and was, therefore, the natural selection for a health center.
Harry Jedlic, architect for the Health Center, wanted to maintain its communal nature. The center will be used for various purposes including medical services, counseling services and child and family services as well as education.
"The idea of the health center is that we walk into the center of the core and it's called a friendship area," explained Jedlic.
The designated health center land, located on the Okanese First Nation, was officially turned over from Chief Daywalker-Pelletier on behalf of the Band members to the File Hills Agency. It was accepted by Little Black Bear Chief Clarence Bellegarde and Starblanket First Nation Chief Irvin Starblanket on the Agency's behalf.
FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde lauded the health center's location, "With File Hills being right in the community, it's accessibility as well. People won't have to drive 45 minutes to town...It's here. It's right in the community. So it's another historic day with this sod turning for the File Hills communities."