Alberta First Nation building Indigenous-led youth group home

A new Indigenous-led youth group home is being built west of Edmonton at the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.

Once completed, the group home will serve kids aged five to 17 with the goal of keeping Indigenous children in care in the First Nation community at a facility that has a traditional knowledge keeper, elders and social workers.

On Monday, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site of the project.

“Anytime you are taken away from your home you experience trauma,” said Chief Tony Alexis.

“We will create a program that will reinstill stability in their life.”

Alexis said the nation has 150 kids in care and that all of them are off the reserve.

“The kids that are leaving the community, they are going into someone else’s environment,” he said. “We all know, we always want to be in our home environment. That’s the safest place to be. That’s where we’re comfortable.”

It was an important goal for the First Nation community to ensure that any Indigenous children and youth in care remain close to their roots and traditions, Alexis added.

“The conversations in the community have always been we need to create our own facilities, our own environment, we need to create our laws so that as a community, a First Nation community, that we can look after our own children and protect them as well as support families that need that help,” he said.

Construction starts in June and is expected to last for one year, with a price tag of $8 million. The First Nation community hopes to enter into a cost-sharing agreement to operate the facility with the federal and provincial governments.

For Alexis, the announcement represented one more step toward healing from the traumas of colonialism.

“Residential schools took children away. The Sixties Scoop took children away,” he said. “We want to make sure that we bring our kids back here.”

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