Canada and the Witset First Nation partner to launch the Witset Youth Healing Lodge Project

Press Release

From: Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

Support line for those affected by missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people:

For immediate emotional assistance, call 1-844-413-6649. You can also access long-term health support services, such as mental health counselling, community-based emotional support, cultural services, and some travel costs to see Elders and traditional healers.

December 13, 2022

Today, Chief Barry Nikal from the Witset First Nation and the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown−Indigenous Relations, announced the launch of the Witset Youth Healing Lodge Project. The Government of Canada will provide $3,826,659 through the Cultural Spaces in Indigenous Communities Program (CSICP) towards this project.

The Witset Youth Healing Lodge Project will develop a new building that will provide a safe and accessible healing space for both Wet’suwet’en and other Indigenous youth from Northern British Columbia. The new Lodge will be situated on the territory stewarded by the Tsee K’al K’e Yex (House on a Flat Rock) of the Laksilyu (Small Frog Clan) of the Wet’suwet’en-speaking people in the community of Witset, BC.

The healing lodge will serve, guide and empower Indigenous youth of all gender expressions from the ages of 12 to 29, especially women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people. The Witset Youth Healing Lodge will also provide a holistic approach to wellness and serve as a culturally safe space for youth to heal from mental health problems, addictions, trauma, and other challenges. The healing lodge will use support and the sharing of traditional culture, life skills, recreation and community connection to provide youth with tools to strengthen their mental, spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. Elders and other Knowledge Keepers will also help provide support and pass on knowledge and life skills. The healing lodge will also feature a learning centre for arts and crafts, storytelling, and language learning, as well as land-based cultural activities, plant and medicine harvesting and a ceremonial space.

Investing in cultural spaces is crucial to addressing the root causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQI+ individuals. This transformative program will also support Indigenous Peoples in reclaiming their identity as part of their journey towards self-determination, which is a crucial step in advancing reconciliation and building relationships between Indigenous Peoples, governments, and all Canadians.

Quotes

“I’m happy. I’m proud. It’s been a long time coming for Witset. Our people need these accessible places that are culturally safe for our youth in their healing journey… so our community can support them and wrap our arms around our children. There are social issues across Indigenous communities. Wet’suwet’en people don’t give up. When tools come to us, we use them to the best of our ability to help strengthen our communities. As Wet’suwet’en people, we take care of one another. This youth healing lodge will support young people in learning how to take care of ourselves, and then taking care of our community. We’re fiercely independent, but stronger together. This is going to help our people build the skill sets needed to come together through wellness.”

Deputy Chief Elgin Cutler
Witset First Nation

“Witset’s restorative healing lodge is a step forward for their community and is an example of how other communities can look inside for the healing necessary. On behalf of Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative (IHII), I commend the leadership at Witset. Taking care of our loved ones and our destiny, this healing lodge is an excellent example of bringing culture and foresight together.”

Will Goodon, Co-Chair
Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative (IHII) Steering Committee

“It is very exciting that the restorative healing lodge on Witset First Nation will soon be opening to serve the community. The healing lodge brings critically important housing and cultural support to vulnerable youth at Witset. This project is just one of many Indigenous housing projects supported through the Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative, that provides support for the development of design and financing for unique Indigenous housing projects in communities throughout Canada. Cando recognizes the urgent need for safe and healthy housing for Indigenous people as well as the critical role that new housing development can have on community economic development.”

Ray Wanuch, Executive Director
Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (Cando)

“I am glad to partner with the Witset First Nation on this project where youth, women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people will have a safe space to heal and connect to their history. The Witset Youth Healing Lodge will be a community hub that will empower Indigenous youth for generations to come by incorporating cultural teachings, healing, and community connections. I look forward to seeing this promising future unfold.”

The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations

Quick facts

  • The Government of Canada continues to work with provinces, territories, Indigenous organizations, families, Survivors and communities across the country to make progress on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan.
  • Budget 2021 invested $108.8 million over two years in the Cultural Spaces in Indigenous Communities Program. This investment is part of the Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, the Government of Canada’s contribution to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan and supports the response to Call for Justice 2.3, which calls upon all governments to prioritize safe and meaningful access to culture and languages for Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people to restore, reclaim and revitalize identities.
  • The National Action Plan was co-developed by:
    • the National Family and Survivors Circle;
    • representatives of First Nations, Inuit, Métis and Indigenous grassroots organizations;
    • Indigenous, provincial and territorial governments; and
    • Indigenous urban and 2SLGBTQI+ leaders.

Associated links

Contacts

For more information, media may contact:

Aissatou Diop
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations
Email: aissatou.diop@rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca

CIRNAC Media Relations:
Email: RCAANC.Media.CIRNAC@sac-isc.gc.ca
Phone: 819-934-2302

Deputy Chief Elgin Cutler
Witset First Nation
Email: elgin@witset.ca

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