Supports in place for victims and families affected by James Smith Cree Nation attacks

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In the wake of the tragedy in James Smith Cree Nation and the community of Weldon, organizations in the Queen City and across Canada are providing supports and gathering donations to assist those affected.

The Hope for Wellness Helpline (1-855-242-3310) is available to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. The helpline provides 24 hours a day, seven days a week service by phone or online chat to those in need.

All services are available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway (Anishinaabemowin) as well as Inuktitut.

Also available in Saskatchewan is the Talking Stick app, partially developed by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) as an Indigenous centric anonymous chat platform. The app is available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play as well as on desktop.

The app provides “peer advocates” from First Nations communities across the province to the user.

Charlene Gardiner, provincial director for Sask. for Talking Stick, said while none of the advocates are counsellors or mental health therapists, they are there to listen to whatever people want to talk about.

“They’re going in there and they’re listening, they’re not counselling,” said Gardiner. “Every voice matters, that’s the theme we’re going with.”

A texting service is also available through Kids Help Phone, who provide 24/7 mental health support.

In this instance, both children and adults can use the keyword “SUPPORT” with “First Nations,” “Inuit” or “Metis” and be connected to an Indigenous Crisis Responder.

Kids Help Phone is offering a texting service to provide mental health support. (Courtesy of Kids Help Phone)

Alisa Simon, executive vice president and chief youth officer with Kids Help Phone, said they tend to find people have different presences of how they want to communicate, particularly in a crisis.

They also offer a line where youth can call, as well as a place to chat with peers and online resources for helping loved ones cope.

“We’re in the middle of this, this is still unfolding, and so we can be there for you in whatever way you need us to be right now,” said Simon, adding they want people to be able to reach out in whatever way is comfortable for them.

Those in the area most affected by the tragedy have access to multiple supports according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

The following SHA support lines are available:

  • Prince Albert and Area Mental Health and Addictions Centralized Intake – 306-765-6055/1-888-765-6055
  • NE – South (Melfort- Nipawin- Rosthern – Tisdale and Area) Mental Health and Addictions Centralized Intake – 1-833-274-4060
  • North East Crisis Line (Melfort) 24 hrs – 1-800-611-6349/306-752-9455

In Regina, the Newo-Yetina Friendship Centre is currently collecting donations and non-perishable food items for use in the wakes, funerals and community gatherings at James Smith Cree Nation in the coming days.

Donations can be dropped off at 1635 11th Ave and will be accepted until Friday, Sept. 9 at 4:00 p.m.

Preferred donations include paper plates, napkins, utensils, paper towels, Kleenex, hand soap, bottled water, potatoes, carrots, dry noodles, salt and pepper, coffee, powdered cream, sugar cubes, stir sticks, tea, cups, juice drinks and individually wrapped snack items.

The centre said gathering these donations is important as it helps ease the burden on family that are putting together funerals, wakes and feasts.

“If we can help those people focus on their grieving rather than focusing on other things that go involved into the planning of community events then that’s where we thought we should step up and we could be of most assistance,” said Teresa Innis, essential services manager with the centre.

The centre is not collecting monetary donations at this time. For those interested in donating money, they are asked to reach out directly to the administrators of James Smith Cree Nation and village of Weldon.

The University of Regina announced on its Facebook page that emergency and mental health supports would be available to students, faculty and staff in the wake of tragedy at James Smith Cree Nation.

The First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) has organized several events over the coming days in solidarity with the James Smith Cree Nation.

On Sept. 6 at 12:00 p.m., the FNUniv’s Northern Campus in Prince Albert will host a smudging ceremony and lunch.

On Sept. 7 at 7:00 p.m., the Regina, Saskatoon and Northern campuses are set to host simultaneous candle light and prayer vigils. The Regina Campus vigil will be held on the front lawn of 1 First Nations Way. Free parking is available in lots 11 and 12.

On Sept. 9 at 12:00 p.m., the FNUniv, University of Regina, Luther College and Campion College will host a prayer gathering for all faiths.

Everyone is welcome to attend all the listed gatherings. Additional patrols and guards will be provided for each gathering at all campuses the FNUniv noted in its news release.

HANDLING GRIEF

Jennifer Calkin, a social worker at Soul Haven Counselling, said when death is sudden, there is an overlap between traumatic experience and grief, and many people will experience a whole range of emotions including shock, guilt, or anger.

She added it can also bring it past feelings of grief, especially if it hasn’t been processed or healed.

Calkin said grief is not a cookie cutter experience.

“It’s important not to judge, that grief is going to feel different and look different for everybody,” she said, adding it’s important to take time to nurture your mind, body and spirit.

“When you’re grieving and collectively grieving as a community, that grief might feel more intense.”

She advises to make sure you are taking care of yourself through self-care, talking to someone you trust whether that be a family, friend or professional, and taking time for physical needs such as sleeping.

She said that sometimes doing practical things during a community crisis is helpful, like bringing a meal over to a neighbour or checking in on them.

“Losing someone is a great challenge in any community, but in Indigenous communities, circumstances can make the grieving process especially challenging and this can also be triggering grief that is constantly felt within First Nations communities,” said Calkin.

She added with the ongoing uncertainty, it is important to focus on things you do have control over, going back to self-care, practicing mindfulness and meditation.

“Sometimes these things we just have to take day-by-day, or if that seems like too much, break it down, morning, afternoon, evening.”

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