In a very historic moment for the Lower Kootenay Band (LKB), a ground-breaking ceremony was hosted at the future location of the Seven Nations Soaring Eagle Healing Centre.
The centre, being built for $9.5 million, will offer treatment to Indigenous people suffering from drug and alcohol dependency.
In his opening remarks at the ceremony on Sept. 28, Nasukin Jason Louie of the LKB spoke of the impact of substance-use disorders throughout his community.
“I think it’s safe to say everybody has been impacted,” he said. “We’ve all lost somebody due to alcohol and drugs, whether it was a sibling or parents or grandparents. Today, a lot of illicit drugs are laced with fentanyl and are taking the lives of Indigenous people at an alarming rate. And it’s hit home for all of us.”
The project will carry on the legacy of the late Mary Basil, an LKB elder.
“She saw what alcohol was doing to our community and to our nation,” said Louie. “She wanted to change her lifestyle and found sobriety. And in the late 1970s, she first started what was called the ‘Recovery Home’ in her own house. Her belief was she wanted to save lives.”
Spearheaded by Basil, the facility expanded and was established as a full-fledged treatment centre. In the early 1990s, it received accreditation as the Ktunaxa Kinbasket Wellness Centre. It became so successful that there was a waitlist province-wide.
“There was an unfortunate crash of the treatment centre when it left the community in 2005 and became dormant,” said Louie. “The Lower Kootenay Band wanted to revive that dream and bring it back to this community, its rightful home.”
Now in the design and construction phase, the Seven Nations Soaring Eagle Healing Centre is expected to open in late 2023.
Project history and funding
Development of the treatment centre has been a long time coming, with discussions first taking place over seven years ago. Internal and external red tape caused delays, furthered by two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is some history behind the project,” said Lisa Montgomery-Reid, vice president of regional operations for the Interior region, First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). “We had to work through the ownership and location of the treatment centre, but we came to an understanding that this was the best approach.”
She added that the seven nations of the Interior — Ktunaxa, Nlaka’pamux, Dãkelh Dené, Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, St’at’imc, and Syilx — are working in partnership to make this happen, which is historic in itself.
The FNHA is a major contributor of the capital costs and operations for the project, in a tripartite relationship with the provincial and federal governments.
“To receive such a large budget, and what it’s going to mean to the Indigenous people of B.C., is amazing,” said Montgomery-Reid. “I think it’s going to impact generations to come.”
The future centre
The Seven Nations Soaring Eagle Healing Centre, located at 1278 West Creston Road, will be cabin style with direct connections to nature.
“We can and we will make room for anybody in B.C. of First Nations’ status who is seeking help,” said Louie. “I am looking forward to when the doors open, and we can offer treatment to our relatives throughout this province.”
On site, there will be the main centre, four dwellings, a workshop, sweat lodges, outdoor fire pits, and a spirit walk through the forest. The floor plan of the dwellings includes three private bedrooms, two shared washrooms, a communal living room, kitchenette, and deck space. The workshop will have space for art, mechanics, woodworking, and other crafts.
According to FNHA staff, the treatment program is culturally based and centred on healing. The eight-week comprehensive program will address trauma and the root of dependency. It will support individual transformation by encouraging participants to let go of their wounds and their past to become the person that they’re meant to be.
The staffing model is not yet complete, but the centre will have support from nurses, cultural workers, counsellors, and Indigenous elders.
The curriculum was developed with the goal of accessibility in mind, so the program can be run by community members with life experience alongside some training.