July 16th, 2024

Addiction recovery camp being offered


By Alexandra Noad - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on July 11, 2024.

Herald file photo Kii Mah Pii Pii Tsin Healing and Recovery Camp staff work with Blackfoot traditions and healing in nature on the Blood Tribe Reserve.

A residential school survivor is helping people in Lethbridge who are suffering from addiction.

Alvin Mills spent nine years at St. Paul Residential School and another four years at St. Mary’s Indian Residential School. He says although people can talk about their experiences, one can never truly understand what trauma went on without experiencing it firsthand.

“Until you walk through the hall, until you hear the footsteps, you could never really know what goes on. Tell you the truth, they were a breeding ground for violence. A lot of times in the residential schools we always focused our attention on the supervisors. The nuns and abuses that they did. Oftentimes it was the older students that were just as bad, if not worse, of abuses they inflicted to on younger students,” said Mills.

The trauma brought Mills to the streets, where he suffered with addiction for many years.

Recovery brought compassion and understanding for Mills. He started up his organization Kii Maa Pii Pii Tsin Renewal and Healing Center in 2013.

Kii maa pii pii tsin is Blackfoot for kindness to others, caring for others, which are significant beliefs in Blackfoot culture.

Mills says compassion is key to helping those who are struggling with addiction.

“With the service providers, we got to start ensuring that there’s compassion and care for the individuals that we want to help. A lot of them weren’t born addicts. It’s with what they’ve experienced intergenerational trauma resulting from residential schools,” said Mills.

Mills often hands out bagged lunches with the hopes of encouraging them to join his recovery camps he holds outside of city limits.

The next recovery camp Mills plans to hold will be after Sun Dance. The camps are open to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, but focus on Blackfoot culture and traditions.

“I do hope that we give them that option, that they could leave the city just for a brief period of time to allow themselves to get clean, get away from all the influences that are here,” said Mills.

During the camps, participants will set up and live in tipis for seven days. On the last day there will be a Sweat for participants.

Couples and families will be grouped together to help support each other in their journey.

“(The) camp will also accept whole families as a unit where they could all camp in one tent because as you see here on the streets, whole families are active in their addictions I’ve seen it with the recovery setting they support one another in a positive way,” said Mills.

The camps and initiatives founded by Mills are sponsored by many local groups including The Blood Tribe, Richard Red Crow and Jim Plume to name a few. Kii Maa Pii Pii Tsin is always looking for sandwich and food donations to help his cause.

While Mills hopes to help people on their recovery journey, he has learned from mentors in the Blood Tribe that relapse, while unfortunate, is a part of recovery. Because of this, he will not shun anyone, no matter how many times they relapse.

“If somebody relapses, we want to keep supporting them. We don’t want to tell them, okay, you’re terminated. You’re on your way. So the one that relapses leaves and then they use again and then they overdose and they’re no longer with us. So service providers need to understand when somebody relapses, you keep giving them that support. You don’t give up on them,” said Mills.

For information on the recovery camps or to donate Mills can be reached at alvinator44@outlook.com.

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