The newly formed Indigenous Society of Fort Saskatchewan is eager to make a difference in the community. 

The group, formed in July by Colleen Dollfusz and Tammie Pawlik, is the first of its kind in Fort Saskatchewan. It came about out of a desire to help people through difficult times. 

“I’m an ally of indigenous people so for me, I come at it from a different perspective,” said Pawlik. “When I hear about people going through hard times and being oppressed it gets my attention.” 

“In the last three years, I decided to go back to university and become a social worker, and, in social work, they’re teaching more about indigenous culture and all the issues that have been happening.” 

This newfound education prompted Pawlik to action. Recognizing that there was a noticeable lack of indigenous representation at the community level, she teamed up with Dollfusz to create the society. 

“I did a practicum at Families First in Fort Saskatchewan and that is where I met Colleen [Dollfusz],” said Pawlik. “I started asking and investigating with the city and asking if there was an indigenous society and if people wanted one. They said ‘yes people want one but nobody is willing to take on that leadership role’ so I started to look around to see who would want to co-found it with me and [Dollfusz] was passionate right away.”

Dollfusz says that an Indigenous society is overdue in the community. 

“There is just a gap,” said Dollfusz. “In our community, I’ve always felt like there hasn’t been much going here for indigenous people like sweats and ceremonies.” 

“There are more than just two or three days of the year to celebrate aboriginal culture and peoples because it’s our way of life. It’s everyday things such as going sage picking to simple ceremonies like ribbon skirt gatherings and speaking with an elder.”

The goal of the society is to bridge that gap between the community and indigenous culture. Dollfusz says education will be at the forefront of what the group will use to help do this. 

“I’d like to bridge that gap in educating everybody in our community about how our everyday living is and how our culture is,” said Dollfusz. “[Indigenous people] are different than other people because of our past trauma and the pain we carry that is passed down from generation to generation.” 

That concept of intergenerational pain is rather new in the discourse of indigenous issues but it is an ingrained part of the culture dating back to the proliferation of residential schools in Canada. Dollfusz says that another goal of society will be to address families that suffer from that trauma and to help them break cycles. 

“I want us to be that place that people can come and say ‘I want to start healing now, can you help me on my journey’...that's another goal of the Indigenous Society of Fort Saskatchewan,” said Dollfusz.

The group has high hopes for what they can accomplish in the future. Yet, these are early days for the society. Pawlik says that both she and Dollfusz still have to work their full-time jobs while working on the society in their free time. 

“We’re looking for people who are willing to be as passionate and onboard to get things rolling,” “It takes time to get founded, rooted, and going.” 

People who are interested in joining the society can find their Facebook page HERE or email them at isfortsask@yahoo.com.