A group of Indigenous drummers play and chant together while others dance. Photo credit: Elijah Beaver

The Issue

The mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of Calgary and area’s Indigenous population has been shaped by historical determinants such as the legacy of the residential school system, and several present-day policies and practices. These policies suppressed Indigenous culture, identity, and spirituality, resulting in significant loss of language, culture, spirituality, and traditional roles in Indigenous societies. As a result of this trauma, many Indigenous people in Calgary and the surrounding area struggle to lead healthy, rewarding lives.

These statistics advance our understanding of the issues faced by Indigenous people today:

  • Seven generations of children (150,000 kids) were removed from their families and sent to residential schools
  • 21% of Calgary’s homeless population is Indigenous
  • 4 out of 10 Indigenous children in Calgary live in poverty
  • 67% of United Way funded programs served Indigenous people in 2016

Our Response

United Way believes in leading by example. That’s why we’ve developed an organizational Indigenous Strategy. To advance this strategy, we’ve created an Indigenous Advisory Committee to the Board, which advises United Way staff and management on Indigenous worldviews, perspectives, knowledge, and practices for consideration and knowledge-building into our decision-making processes.

United Way invests more than $1.8 million in Indigenous programs annually under our Natoo’si Indigenous Healing and Well-being Initiative, which is focused on supporting individuals, children, youth, and families in healing from intergenerational trauma. Randy’s story explains the importance of this work and how it will shape the next generation of leaders in our city.

United Way has partnered with Pathways Community Services Association to develop Diamond Willow Youth Lodge (formerly known as the Indigenous Youth Hub). Launched in the fall of 2018, the lodge serves as an inclusive, welcome gathering space for Calgary’s Indigenous youth to connect and celebrate their culture in a comfortable environment. Housed in the basement of the Community Wise Resource Centre in Calgary’s Beltline, the lodge is a safe place for youth to drop-in to hang out with friends, connect with Elders, play air hockey or other games, get help with homework, or access supports.