Rassi Nashalik says seeing an Indigenous on-the-land healing camp become a reality in Yellowknife has been very emotional for her.

The retired CBC North reporter and former host of Igalaaq is one of several Indigenous leaders that have been working on the project for over a year. She is a director on the board for the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation, the non-profit behind the camp.

“I didn’t come here until [Monday]. I just made it halfway over here and I started having tears of joy and it hit me when I saw the camp,” said Nashalik. “I said to myself, ‘it is really happening.'”

The wellness camp will be a place for Inuit, Métis and First Nations people to heal and enjoy traditional medicines, practices, food, and songs.

The camp had its opening celebration Tuesday afternoon, drawing a large crowd to the site located in the bush behind the Fieldhouse in Yellowknife.

The Yellowknives Dene Drummers performed around a fire as people made tobacco offerings. People enjoyed stew and bannock prepared by students from the Kalemi Dene School.

The Yellowknives Dene Drummers performed around a fire as people made tobacco offerings. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Several people also spoke about the importance of the camp, including directors Be’sha Blondin and Francois Paulette, executive director Donald Prince and urban land site coordinator William Greenland.

Nashalik also lit the qulliq (traditional lamp) inside a large teepee, representing the uniting of different cultures.

“This is not just for Dene, it’s for Métis, Inuit, altogether and we try to combine our knowledge together and work with our people,” she said.

The camp has been a long time in the making, Nashalik said, and will begin the healing for First Nation, Inuit and Métis people in the territory. It will be open year-round for people to drop by to share stories, talk with elders, join in healing circles, cook on the fire and enjoy tea and bannock.

A crowd gathered in the bush behind the Fieldhouse in Yellowknife on Tuesday afternoon for the opening celebration of the wellness camp. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

“There are a lot of our own people who need help, a lot of them. This is a start for them to get healing,” said Nashalik.

“Our people are bush people or out on the land people. They are happy, on their happiest peak when they’re out on the land and I think this will be a great [thing] for anybody who wants to get help.”  

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action highlighted the need for Indigenous healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to address the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harms caused by residential schools.

The camp in Yellowknife will begin operating next week.

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