After standing empty for fire years, a former treatment centre on the K’at’lodeeche First Nation is being used again. The Dene Wellness Centre opened Wednesday, with room for up to 64 people overnight and has plans for wellness programming deeply rooted in Dene laws and values.

Executive director Hiedi Yardley has worked across the North as a psychologist and therapist. She says ceremonial and traditional practices are an important component of healing, after residential school and colonization forced a loss of sense of self for many.

“When they’re out there in the world, maybe they don’t feel like they connect, maybe they don’t feel like they belong, some of that is actually an outcome of generations of trauma and people not knowing who they are. Who they are as their culture or their values or their identities.”

Two K’at’lodeeche First Nation elders, Pat Martel and Raymond Sonfrere, oversee the work of the centre. Yardley also has her staff sign a policy agreeing to follow the Dene laws.

“We don’t have a formal code of conduct because that’s not the Dene way; we follow the Dene laws and the Dene values.”

Yardley would also like to create a traditional knowledge holder position. However, it is dependent on funding.

Indigenous groups from across the NWT are involved in the centre. An advisory council is being built, with invites out to groups from every treaty settlement region in the territory, the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, the GNWT and Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation.

The centre will be running recovery, trauma and depression groups over the next few months and Yardley says she will be spreading the word to Hay River residents as well as people in surrounding communities Fort Resolution and Enterprise.