Original Published on Jul 14, 2022 at 12:22

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Siksika Nation and Siksika Health Services are announcing the approval of a new on-reserve continuing care centre facility, for which construction will begin later this summer.

Sam Crowfoot with Siksika Chief and Council, said the new facility is far overdue and will go a long way towards keeping local elders on the nation and with their families.

“It will have 34 units that are for continuing care, (which) will allow us an opportunity to be able to give services to our members without having to leave the nation,” said Crowfoot. “We have a significant population at the age of 50 and over, so it will definitely be well anticipated and well received.”

The facility is being funded through a grant provided by the Alberta Ministry of Health through the Continuing Care Capital Program.

Crowfoot said that for years the grant was something Siksika Nation had been working towards successfully applying for. 

He added that he is skeptical as to whether Siksika Nation’s settlement agreement with the federal government has made an impact on how the nation is viewed and whether its signing was a catalyst for Siksika development applications to be taken more seriously.

“I do think that the settlement which we negotiated for and earned, I think that plays a role in things because now that we have this type of financial resources, people are looking at our situation very differently,” said Crowfoot. “Because we have this, now people are taking us a bit more seriously. It’s funny, when we had no money, we kept getting denied and denied and denied for services, but now that we have this money, all these grants are coming through. So, either it is fortuitous timing, or there’s something more to it.”

Though he did not elaborate in detail, Crowfoot added funding for a 22-unit family services facility has also recently “come into place.” 

“I don’t want to say it’s only because we have our settlement. A lot of it is because of the hard work of our leadership — of our chief and council, being able to go out … into these arenas and be able to advocate in an effective and concise manner,” continued Crowfoot who estimates that there will be a 36-month build time for the new continuing care centre, which will be located adjacent to the current Siksika Health Centre. 

Though an exact start date was not given, Crowfoot said ground was likely to be broken for the project in August this year.

“All the ducks are in a row. The architectural plans are approved, the land has been designated and set aside, everything is good to go, and I think that helped in getting that grant awarded to us, because everything is shovel-ready,” said Crowfoot. “We are super excited and it’s overdue. Our elders are some of the last remaining residential school survivors who were taken from their families in their youth. Now, essentially, they’re being taken from their families in their old age because we don’t have the proper resources to support them.”

According to a release detailing the project, a land blessing ceremony will take place prior to the site preparation beginning, before shovels hit the ground.

This item reprinted with permission from The Times, Strathmore, Alberta