Approximately 50 persons attended the grand opening of the newly renovated Keeseekoose Group Home north of Kamsack on April 4, which included speeches by invited guests, a tour of the homes and the land-based site and lunch.
The Home, Pa-go-say-no-mo-oh-gamic, means Hope Haven Healing Homes, and is located at the site of the former Witizon Group Home.
Having begun in January of 2018, the project is still underway, with the remainder of the buildings to be completed by the end of April.
There is a second house on the property which, when completed, will house two families, one upstairs and one down, while the portable building will be utilized as an administration building, said Cheryl Quewezance, the primary organizer of the project and emcee of the program on April 4.
After Elder Cuthbert Keshane said the opening prayer, the group of drummers sang the Honour Song in recognition of the homes and the project.
Calvin Straightnose, Chief of Keeseekoose First Nation (FN), delivered the opening remarks.
"I want to thank those who came up with this idea to help us get here to this day. We were persistent and made today happen," he said.
"I thank everyone who helped with the project. It is community-based, and it’s up to us to make it work successfully.
"We all need community support, and that includes the assistance of the RCMP. We pray for the healing and wellness of every member of our community. We need sound minds to have a sound future to move forward as a nation. All of us here have the capability to make good things happen. We must give our future a hope and this is hope,” he concluded.
Phillip Quewezance, past ad hoc project team chairperson, was then introduced by Cheryl who said he was going to talk about the history of the home and it's Saulteaux name, Pa-go-say-no-mo-oh-gamic, meaning Hope Haven Healing Homes.
"To make this happen we have had support from Chief and council and the help and support of different organizations,” Philip said. “There were times we felt like quitting and we didn't. We put our egos aside and kept working. I thank Cheryl, she didn't give up."
Chief Isabel O’Soup, of the Yorkton Tribal Council (YTC), next spoke about the group home that used to be at this spot. "This new facility was always Phillip’s dream. If we, each one of us here, start by concentrating on one youth at a time we can make an impact, and eventually, as a community effort, we can make this a success,” she said.
Raymond Shingoose of YTCCFS (Yorkton Tribal Council Child and Family Services) next brought greetings from the board of directors, the YTCCFS staff and Dr. Cindy Blackstop.
"This facility is a result of prevention funding,” he said. “It takes a community to achieve a project of this nature. Our administration office is located on the grounds. This project is all about family wellness.”
Rae Shingoose, YTCCFS director of prevention, offered congratulations and said “good work to the management team and to those who physically restored the home with the vision and tri-reserve support.
"This is our first land-based program. It is so good to see this happen. It’s good to see a First Nation community taking the initiative to use this type of family wellness program to help our families. Cheryl deserves a lot of credit,” she concluded.
At this time, Shingoose presented a framed work of art to Cheryl to be hung on a wall of the new Group Home.
The next speaker was Chief Clarence Papequash of The Key FN. He began by saying “Why fix one person when you can fix them all?
"Don't leave out anybody,” he said. “We all need to cooperate. There are no issues that can't be resolved. We must keep our culture and language alive. Congratulations Keeseekoose and I pledge my support to help.”
Chief George Cote of Cote FN spoke next, offering his congratulations on the project.
"This is a very touching thing you are doing for your people at Keeseekoose,” he said.
“Keeseekoose, The Key and Cote First Nations have been in talks about how we can help each other in healing. The spirituality of it is very important. This facility received blessings this morning and we must remember and focus on our Creator to make healing possible. This land-based healing project is a start and can be expanded to help our people.
“I'd like to acknowledge those who were able to get this project going,” he concluded.
Trudy Shingoose, executive director of Four Directions Child and Family Services said the goal was to “bring the families to the children to create a wellness in the family unit. This needs to happen,” she said. “Congratulations and we are looking forward to your future.”
Leonard Keshane of Keeseekoose Prevention Services spoke about how a family center was needed to work with the whole family to make the community well again.
"Having a child in the home teaches responsibilities,” he said. “There is a different rule for each family member, and in life each one plays many different roles.
“We can do the programming here at this facility, independent of government input,” he said. “I thank the Chief and council for making this happen. There were frustrations but the project team kept moving forward and adapting and never gave up. Let's make it work it's for our people. This whole project is such an excellent thing for it also created employment for Keeseekoose band members.”
Cheryl Quewezance then spoke, describing what the vision for this home has been.
"The vision for this home came from community members and Elders and we implemented it. Without Chief and council support we would not be here today.
“The intent of these homes is to be able to assist families to become stronger units to live together in a healthy way and not be torn apart from one another. Here we will be using our language, our cultural activities such as hunting and snaring rabbits, our traditional land-based survival skills and traditional ceremonial activities to create an atmosphere of wellness.
“There will also be professional services offered. This place is really a two-part facility that brings the best of both worlds to assist families and their children: the traditional and professional services.
“Thank you for all the help and support from YTTCS,” she said. “I’ve been told I don't know how to give up. George, Kevin and Philip made me understand I had to listen to other people's opinions to accomplish this project. Thank you Virginia Musqua for the guidance.
“We had hired over 30 band members for this project. I want to thank the site managers and workers who did really good work. They made this place look new. It looks great and thank you to Joe Straightnose and crew.”
In his closing comments Chief Straightnose said, “We need to keep moving forward and support each other. I thank everyone who attended today from the bottom of my heart.”
The project vision includes having a row of teepees, a playground with installed equipment, and an arbour by the outdoor area where there will be a meat smoker.
After a lunch, those in attendance were given a tour of the homes and land- based site.