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Indigenous Friendship Centre officially opens in Stephenville

Elder Victor Muise offers the opening prayer during the official opening of the People of the Dawn Friendship Centre.
Elder Victor Muise offers the opening prayer during the official opening of the People of the Dawn Friendship Centre.

Vallon LaSaga is appreciating the support the newly opened People of the Dawn Friendship Centre is putting forward towards helping to keep her clean.

The 31-year-old St. George’s woman, who was in attendance at the grand opening of the Friendship Centre’s satellite office for indigenous people in Stephenville on Monday, said she had trouble with alcohol and drug addictions in the past, and as of Oct. 21 will have been clean for six months.

She’s the first to admit it hasn’t been an easy go and said keeping clean is a day-by-day process and something she plans to stick to, especially now that she doesn’t have to do it on her own.

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Friendship centre being established in St. George’s and Stephenville

“When I got into trouble I reached out to my native side, and thankfully (Mi’kmaw people) were willing to help me,” she said.

Part of her recovery involved her going to the Eskasoni Mi’kmaw Lodge in the Bras d’Or Lake area of Nova Scotia, where she underwent a five-week treatment program.

LaSaga said having a local friendship centre to turn to is ideal, as she can come and talk to the people she needs to for their help and support. She’s been attending the Monday meetings at the newly opened centre and so far it’s been working out fine.

She’s also soaking up whatever cultural activities she can and attends the drumming classes on Tuesdays at the main friendship centre in her hometown of St. George’s, along with taking part in any other Bay St. George Cultural Circle ceremonies.

She said the friendship centre has plans in the works to start a native story time for elementary school-age children.

“I plan to be involved in that and can be someone to help kids see there is more to life than getting involved in drugs and alcohol,” LaSaga said.

During ceremonies at the satellite office opening, Ann Hart, MC for the event, said it was an exciting day, as not only was it the official opening of the centre for indigenous people, but also the new offices in the same location for the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network.

Linda Wells, executive director for the network, said the organization has been around since 2005 and formerly operated out of the W.E. Cormack Building, but in this new location they have aboriginal people close by who can support each other.

Patrick Park-Tighe, executive director for the friendship centre, said he and Paul Pike, director of culture and programming for the centre, have been fortunate to have been handed the centre and thanked the board for its hard work.

“We’re proud to have it and we’re looking forward to the challenges in working for all the people, from seniors to youth and those who have addictions and seek our help,” he said.

Odelle Pike, centre president, said a lot of hard work was put into getting the centre started and now a lot of hard work is required in getting it to be a success.

People of the Dawn Indigenous Friendship Centre:

Odelle Pile, president of board of directors

Patrick Park-Tighe, executive director

Paul Pike, director of  culture and programming

Mission: To empower our communities economically, socially and culturally to make self-determination a reality for everyone.

Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network:

Linda Wells, executive director

Leanne Pieroway, project manager

Gina McIsaac, administrative assistant

Nona Matthews-Gosse, project manager

Mission: The Newfoundland Aboriginal Women's Network strives to promote, enhance and encourage the health, social, educational, economic, cultural and political well-being of Aboriginal women within the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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