It’s fantastic to hear the Gwich’in Tribal Council is working to revive the Rachel Reindeer Wellness Camp, but the project needs the support of the community to succeed.
Speaking to GTC Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik this week, he was quite candid in explaining the costs of running the healing centre and his hopes for partnerships from other groups in the region, such as the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Certainly there needs to be support from local governments for the project — though I suspect that’s largely there already. Mayor Clarence Wood has spoken at length of the needs for a facility that offers addictions treatment in the area. It’s unlikely the IRC would say no to a chance to have such an opportunity for healing in the region as well.
But the responsibility of healing the Beaufort Delta should not rest solely on the survivors of colonialism. The responsible parties for much of the social problems now being grappled with seem largely absent from the healing process.
A second story making its way through our pages talks of the plight of Grollier Hall students and their demands for real atonement. An apology from Pope would carry a lot more weight if it came with a promise to help fund the recovery process for the intergenerational victims of the Residential School system. And this should come with no strings attached and not be tied to any sort of programming expectations.
Ottawa has provided grant money to get the project started, but can easily do more. Expecting the GNWT to foot the colonists’ part of the bill is unfair and unrealistic. All evidence indicates the GNWT is strapped for cash trying to maintain the programs and services it currently has and really can’t afford to take on more projects under its current funding model.
However, programs like Jordan’s Principle have laid the groundwork for dozens of great initiatives — including two new school buses helping children get to school safely, thanks to work between the current and previous Nihtat Gwich’in Councils. NGC — and many other groups in the area — have also made excellent use of the funding for programs to help enrich youth and preserve Gwich’in and Inuvialuit culture. So we now have a clear track record showing that when the money is available, people do great things with it.
And this facility has done some great things. It was instrumental in helping people prepare for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when it held hearings in Inuvik in 2011. It provided counselling services for Residential School survivors and addictions focused therapies, it ran programs to help connect youth with Elders and preserve traditional knowledge and helped maintain on the land skills and knowledge for future generations. It gave people a place to reflect and recharge. It’s a resource the region sorely needs.
In conclusion, Ottawa, and the Churches responsible need to put their money where their mouths are. They created most of the region’s current socio-economic problems and should cover the repairs. If these institutions are serious about making amends for their past policies and decisions — and the people now in charge of them are genuinely sorry about what occurred up here — then offering to help fund vital recovery programs like this would be an excellent first step.