This year’s National Addiction Awareness Week was a resounding success for the Tsq’escen First Nation.
Over two weeks, members from across Canim Lake came to attend a series of community events including a movie night, game night, equine therapy clinic, a coffee cafe and bowling. The activities were organized by Margo Archie, the health administrator for White Feather Family Centre, and a team of volunteers from the Tsq’escen First Nation.
“With COVID we had to stand down a bit so it’s good to be able to get out, socialize and come together as a community and just celebrate NAAW,” Archie said. “It was amazing. We have had people come to our activities that we have never seen in our building. So for them to come in and enjoy our art therapy and equine therapy is very rewarding.”
Archie said since 2019 she has overseen everything health-related for the Tsq’escen First Nation, be it physical health or mental health. Working with her community “is wonderful” and she said it’s great to bring a variety of programs for people to utilize.
NAAW has been an important week for her community for years now. Archie said it focuses on mental health and raising awareness about the dangers of addiction, which has historically devastated First Nations communities.
“It’s a way to recognize the people who are working towards a healthier lifestyle and to give them other options to celebrate their successes. Whether it’s one day sober or 50 years sober, we celebrate all of them and their accomplishments.”
Archie said they started the week on Tuesday, Nov. 22 with a ceremony giving out coins for weeks earned, before moving on to those who count their sobriety in years. Afterwards, they had a guest speaker from the First Nations Health Authority talk about the new First Nations Wellness Centre that opened in Williams Lake last month.
Their coffee cafe, meanwhile, was also well attended. While people enjoyed coffee and companionship Archie said videos about addiction and health were playing in the background for the community’s knowledge.
“We were able to just touch base with a lot of the clients and make them aware of what’s provided for the First Nation Health Authority, Interior Health and within the White Feather Family Centre,” Archie said. “We try and capture the younger crowd and let them know there are other options in life to go through. It gives them more options and awareness.”
Archie said the best part of the week was the equine therapy clinic hosted at Halfway Ranch Thursday night. She said they had a bonfire, painted and rode horses. For some of the elders who attended, it was the first time they had ridden a horse in years.
“We had one Elder who hadn’t been on a horse for a long time and for her to get up there, it just brings back so many different stories from her childhood. It was great to be able to capture that moment,” Archie said.
If anyone is in need of support dealing with addiction or any mental health issue, Archie said the White Feather has resources that can help. She invites those in need to come into their office or call her at 250-397-2717.