Chief Tammy Cook-Searson surrounded by guest and dignitaries for the grand opening of Woodland Wellness Centre. Retrieved from Cook-Searson Tammy Jim Facebook

By Amber Bear

Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) celebrated National Indigenous People’s Day by cutting a specially created moose-hide ribbon at the Grand Opening of the Woodland Wellness Centre (WWC).

The day began with a traditional pipe ceremony followed by a grand entry of dignitaries, dancers and drummers. 

Cook-Searson said it was an amazing day and was pleased with the community support from far and wide. 

“During the ceremony, there were six eagles flying around, circling around where we were,” she said. “So, just a really beautiful sign.”

Opening the WWC was the culmination of more than a decade of hard work. Cook-Searson said her late sister encouraged her to fight to find a way to help and meet the needs of the community members, which made the grand opening even more special. 

“The dream was to have a wellness, treatment (and) recovery centre so we can build the capacity and be a catalyst for change,” said Cook-Searson.

The WWC will provide support to those dealing with mental health issues and addictions recovery by utilizing both western and traditional therapies. It will consist of an in-patient treatment centre with 24-beds for both men and women as well as an outpatient treatment centre.  

There is also an Elders office and traditional medicine room inside the building and on the outside there is a sweat lodge, meat prep room and smoke houses. 

The wellness centre is just the beginning of a much larger wellness plan for the north.

LLRIB delivers services to the largest First Nation in Saskatchewan, and is one of the 10 largest First Nations in Canada, with a membership of over 11,000 people. 

The WWC project will also expand into five of the LLRIB outlying communities. Each of the communities will have mini-healing lodges built near their communities this summer that will consist of off-grid two-bedroom/living room/kitchen style traplines units.

“Families can go there, and the community therapists can go there, or the Elders can go there and work with families,” said Cook-Searson. 

She said the community is grateful for the financial support it received for the project.

The federal government contributed $11.6 million and funding to cover the first year of operations and maintenance. The Lac la Ronge Indian Band invested $2 million for the capital project and provided the land where the building is located.   

The province contributed one-time capital funding of $2.5 million to be used towards the mental health healing and recovery portion of the Centre, which includes an attached unit with inpatient beds for addictions treatment.

“Our government is pleased to provide capital funding for this project,” Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said in a news release. “This contribution is an opportunity to participate in an innovative model of care that is community-driven and culturally responsive. I want to extend a sincere thank you to the project team, community members, leaders, and Elders for making this project a success.”

According to the province, the investment supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, as well as Saskatchewan’s Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan.


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