By Lethbridge Herald on February 7, 2024.
Theodora MacLeod – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Following a 2022 memorandum of understanding, the University of Lethbridge and Blood Tribe Department of Health are launching a multi-phased project that was officially named as part of a Saapihtsimaani (prayer and pipe ceremony) on Tuesday in Standoff.
Dubbing the health initiative Sokkinakia’pi–which comes from the work Sokkinaki meaning “to heal” and a’pi meaning “all that has to do with” – the project will look to expand the capacity and delivery of health services on the Blood Reserve and comes in response to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Entering the first phase assessing the needs of the community, the co-led project is headed by Melissa Shouting (BHSc ’19) and Janetta Soup (BMgt ’07). Both members of Kainai Nation, Shouting and Soup will be the first to lead an all-Kainai research team as part of the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences.
“This project will be the first of its kind, in that it will incorporate the Indigenous-driven international Buffalo Treaty, which serves as a meeting place for place-based knowledge systems to affirm Kainayssini as a governance model as a means to establish collaboration and engagement within community,” says Shouting, adding, “this approach also seeks to build health research capacity within community while enhancing pathways to post-secondary success for Blackfoot students in varying health careers related to their field of study.”
A release from the organizers explains that in the early stages, the Sokkinakia’pi project will build upon the current Kainai Health Services Plan established in 2016 to ensure the Blood Tribe is equipped with the tools and resources required to prosper over the next decade. To fully understand the priorities and needs of the community ongoing consultation with members of the Blood Tribe is planned. As the project evolves it is anticipated other partnerships will develop, though will remain true to the values it was established with, honesty, kindness, collaboration, respect, strength, and humility.
Derrick Fox, CEO of the Blood Tribe Department of Health feels the partnership is a “huge benefit for the Blood Tribe” which he says, “will support the enhancement of health services for our people.” He emphasizes the project “ensures our children will have every opportunity to gain education and training to continue our ancestors’ legacy of caring for ourselves in a respectful and dignified approach based on traditional ways of knowing and being.”
In the end, Sokkinakia’pi aims to create new opportunities for the education and training of health professionals within the Blood Tribe and thereby expand access to high quality health services and care on the Blood Reserve.