Siksika Nation announced it's receiving money from the province to build a new continuing care centre that members have long been advocating for on reserve land.
The 34-bed centre will take about three years to build, and there are still a number of details to work out, but this is welcome news for many nation members, said Kory Duck Chief, team leader at the Siksika Elders Lodge.
"It's been a long time coming and a lot of work put into this, like years of work by many different people," said Duck Chief.
"It's going to be completely huge for the community, especially for those that really require the 24/7 nursing care health care professionals that will be onsite at the new facility."
The approval for grant funding from the Alberta Ministry of Health will allow the nation to replace an aging seniors lodge, which can accept a maximum of 22 people, and expand the level of services that can be offered on reserve land.
Duck Chief said this new centre will give elders the opportunity to age within the community and not force them to travel to another town or city for care.
"We've seen so many leaving off reserve, you know, not at their choice, and we would like them to stay on reserve," she said.
"To have this actual facility being built on Siksika Nation, we're going to see a lot of our elders live longer … where they can continue to share their stories and share the language that they have within them with our youth."
Most nation members want to age in place, said Duck Chief.
"They will have already been through enough traumatic experiences where they had to live most of their childhood in a residential school and then to be placed back into facilities off reserve, that's just reigniting their traumatic experiences."
Siksika Health Services will receive about $11.3 million from Alberta Health for the care spaces, the province confirmed.
"I'm very glad to see this project moving forward, and looking forward to giving more information on it and several others soon," said Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping in a statement.
"We're expanding continuing care to meet the needs of all Albertans and as part of that I'm proud to build on our partnerships with First Nations."
In a news release, Siksika Health Services said money to operate the new facility will be provided through a separate multi-year operating grant that still needs to be finalized and approved.
Chief Ouray Crowfoot said the new centre will change the future of continuing care forever on the reserve.
"Expanded services will be available so that Siksika elders, for the first time, will have access to long-term care and designated supportive living in their own community. The continuing care centre will also provide palliative and respite services while connected with independent living units and adult day support, planned for the site," he said in the release.
The continuing care centre will be built just west of the Siksika Health and Wellness Centre, about 90 kilometres east of Calgary.
Duck Chief said that the nation's seniors population is growing: 45 members will turn 65 by 2023, increasing the total number of seniors on and off the reserve to 510.
With the planning process for the new centre already underway, excitement in the community is growing, said Duck Chief.
"I'm still pinching myself … We're just over the moon here," she said.
"Coming together with the province of Alberta proves that partnerships can succeed."
Duck Chief said when she announced the news to residents at the nationally accredited seniors lodge, "the cheers and the claps that came from them [were] louder than their usual bingo games here.
"Just seeing the excitement in their eyes just completely inspired me to continue on [and] ensure that our nation members retain their dignity and integrity."