nutrition and health along withaddiction and mental illness.
The mission of the Blood Tribe’straining programs to help tribemembers find and get jobs thatlead to independence and self-sustainability. The ultimate goalis to reduce members’ dependenceon social assistance and make thereserve stronger. The agriculturalprogram will unfold over threephases, the first being culturalstudies, followed by classroom andthen field work. It runs eight monthsin total.
Launched in 2014 to encourageyouth to learning about farming andranching, the Agricultural TrainingInitiative will cost the tribe $750,000,an investment well worth the price,says Beebe. “Looking at optionswhere we can employ large numbersof people on reserve is always a goodinvestment,” she said. “For the jobs,and for so many other reasons.” Thereserve’s current unemploymentrate is 30 per cent. At the same time,businesses on the reserve could hireup to 100 skilled workers. Over thenext decade, they could hire up to
The mood in the college room was
light, jovial, full of wisecracks. The
group seemed pleased and proud
to be in the program. “Thirty of
us started,” Jazlynn said, ignoring
the ongoing banter of her male
classmates. “And only two have
Then, without any warning or
fanfare, the laughter stopped and
the banter ceased. A hush came over
the room. Blood Tribe elder Francis
First Charger had come into the
room unannounced and set up a
PowerPoint presentation. “First,” he
said softly, “I want to offer a prayer
to the Creator.” The room went quiet
under the sound of his muted and
gently humorous voice. When he
finished, a silent respect reigned.
Then he told stories about his ownhistory and the history of the BloodTribe, both in its own right and inrelation to Treaty 7. Not a personmoved.
Sitting in the boardroom of the Blood Tribe’s employment office, Beebe, Calf Robe, WhiteQuills and Blood explained to mewhy so many Blood members areturning to fentanyl.
“What’s happening here is basically
two things,” said Beebe. “First,
people have access to drugs through
benefit plans. So easy legal access
gets combined with gang-related
drug running. The easy access then
becomes a problem because so many
of our people have had to relive
what they went through with the
Beebe is referring to the infamous
and disastrous residential school
system across Canada that devastated
generations of First Nations
communities. (The system began with
the Indian Act in 1876 and the last
school closed in 1996.) Reconciliation
led to apologies, and reparation
was eventually paid to survivors in
two different forms. The first was
a common-experience payment.
The second was an independentassessment, which opened upold wounds that proved difficultto close. In trying to cope, someturned to alcohol, some to crime,some to drugs such as fentanyl, allmechanisms to cope with spiritualand emotional pain. Other factorsalso contribute to the community’shealth crises. The Blood Tribe, alongwith all of Alberta’s First Nations,Metis and Aboriginal people, lifeis often vastly different from otherAlbertans. For more than a century,they have faced discriminationand racism and seen the erosion oftheir cultures, traditions and socialnetworks. Individuals, familiesand communities have experiencedhigher rates of poverty, illness andaddiction and fewer opportunities foreducation, employment and a betterquality of life. Other factors are alsoat play.
“Like idleness,” said White Quills,
matter-of-factly. “When our kids
don’t have anything meaningful to
direct their lives towards, they get
in trouble. They need something to
do. And the best thing for them to
do is get a job. If we can get them
meaningful work, healthier lives tend
to come with it.”
Calf Robe agreed. “Employment,
especially full-time employment,
changes everything,” she said. “It