Youth Treatment Centre Celebrates Official Opening

News Release – September 14, 2007

Leading Thunderbird Lodge, a First Nations youth addiction treatment centre located at Fort San in the Qu’Appelle Valley, today celebrates its official opening.

Established by the File Hills Qu’Appelle (FHQ) Tribal Council and the Touchwood Agency Tribal Council (TATC), the treatment centre offers addiction and substance abuse programs to First Nations youth.The facility, owned and operated by the two tribal councils, has delivered residential and outreach services for eight months. Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch has provided $1.6 million for facility renovations and will provide about $1.5 million annually for operating costs. The Government of Saskatchewan has provided a one-time $800,000 grant to pay for facility upgrades.

“Leading Thunderbird Lodge is the culmination of positive efforts and partnerships between the FHQ Tribal Council and TATC and the Federal and Provincial Governments in addressing the addictions that face our youth today,” File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council chairperson Edmund Bellegarde said. “The treatment and development of our youth and families who are challenged with addictions will help in creating healthy and productive individuals within our First Nation communities and within the province of Saskatchewan.”

“I am pleased to be participating in today’s event on behalf of the local Member of Parliament Andrew Scheer, and to show our support for Leading Thunderbird Lodge,” said Dave Batters, Member of Parliament for Palliser, on behalf of the Federal Minister of Health, the Honourable Tony Clement. “Through today’s investment in the Thunderbird Lodge, Canada’s New Government is showing support for the effective work done here to steer local First Nations youth away from a lifestyle of drugs.”

“Saskatchewan Health is pleased to be a partner with and provide funding for Leading Thunderbird Lodge,” Healthy Living Services Minister Graham Addley said. “We are committed to addressing substance abuse issues in the province, and assisting in meeting the needs of First Nations youth and families.”

Leading Thunderbird Lodge is part of Health Canada’s National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse program and the Youth Solvent Abuse program, which supports a national system of treatment services for First Nations in Canada.

The facility takes its name from an elder whose Cree name is Leading Thunderbird. The leading thunderbird takes prayers to heaven and brings them back again.

“Our vision is to work in co-operation with other addiction facilities, educational institutions and health leaders to implement a therapy model that establishes leadership in the field,” Leading Thunderbird Lodge director of therapy Todd Sojonky said. “The therapeutic program is rooted in the First Nations model of the medicine wheel; a holistic approach to health embracing the mental, spiritual, social and physical aspects of a person and so each of these areas will be assessed and treated.”

A staff of 20 people, including a registered psychologist, social worker and counsellors, work together with community elders and a traditional advisor to deliver programming under best practice guidelines.

In addition to therapeutic services, Leading Thunderbird offers a school program delivered by qualified teachers and support staff and tailored to the individual needs of clients. The lodge is operated as a health program, with clients receiving 24-hour supervision by trained staff.

Leading Thunderbird has a fully equipped gymnasium and cardiovascular fitness area, a cultural centre, and outdoor area with a sweat lodge, tipi and a volleyball court.


For more information, contact:

Todd J. Sojonky
Leading Thunderbird Lodge
Phone: 306-332-5659
Cell: 306-535-6017

Susan Steiger
Health Canada
Phone: 204-479-4428

Joan Petrie
Saskatchewan Health
Phone: 306-787-4083

Related Documents
Thunderbird Lodge – French.pdf (61.6 KB)

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