A pipe ceremony, drumming and dancing kicked off the celebrations for the opening of the new Parent Link Centre on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation on Wednesday (Aug. 7).
The second centre of its kind on a reservation in Alberta, the first located in Siksika, organizers were excited to announce the facility is for the community and will be run by the community.
"The idea is we have a lot of kids ... and we will keep our culture here and will utilize our culture to create a successful program," Wesley Chief Clifford Poucette said during the opening celebrations.
In the works since 2017, the provincial funding was approved in March and the site was found just in time for a late summer opening.
Located at the Resource Centre, previously known as the Elder's Lodge, on top of the hill overlooking the Morley town site, the little white room is full of pictures with inspirational messages and cultural teachings.
"This is a long awaited initiative," said Denise Mitchell with Stoney Health Services.
Promoted as an early intervention initiative to keep children connected with their families and culture, Mitchell said the opening of the centre ensures Stoney Nakoda children have the same opportunities as other communities in Canada.
"This tightens the gap for disparity in services," she said.
Bustling with activity, several guests attended the celebration including Canmore Mayor John Borrowman, who gifted the new centre a colourful parachute for the space, reminiscing on how much his children "loved parachutes when they were younger."
"Children are gifts from the creator," Alice Kaquitts pipe carrier said during the pipe ceremony.
"We all have the responsibility to nurture and love and show compassion and [teach] them to respect themselves and respect others."
Parent Link Centres are designed to help promote positive parenting skills and an understanding of what to expect of children at different developmental stages. Other goals include increasing parenting skills confidence, decreasing the isolation new parents may feel, helping parents cope with everyday stress and enhancing connections with other parents and caregivers.
Before the opening of the centre, the closest parent resources were the Parent Link Centres in Cochrane and the Exshaw Parent Link satellite program, recently relocated to the Exshaw Legion – both more than 30 kilometres from the Morley town site.
The Alberta Minister of Children Services Rebecca Schulz said the opening shows a growing respect between the provincial government and First Nations and Métis.
"The Parent Link Centre is a place to go for a little bit of extra help ... and the centre can help when parents need it the most," Schulz said.
Now with the Stoney Nakoda Parent Link officially open, programs offered on the Nation are early childhood development and care, parent education, family support, development screening, information and referrals and cultural celebrations.
For more information, email organizers at email@example.com.