New Manitoba lodge for Indigenous women in need 'not just a healing place, it's a village'

The Clan Mothers, a grassroots organization of Indigenous elders in Winnipeg, has already taken significant steps toward establishing a healing lodge, where Indigenous women will be able go to to heal from trauma, addiction and sexual violence.

The Clan Mothers Healing Village will help women coping with trauma, addiction and sexual violence

Belinda Vandenbroeck, Mae Louise Campbell and Jamie Goulet tie ribbons on the lodge in Campbell's backyard. They are part of the Clan Mothers, a grassroots organization that is building a healing lodge north of Winnipeg. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

A lodge in a backyard in Winnipeg's Point Douglas neighbourhood is where the Clan Mothers, a grassroots organization of Indigenous elders, have been meeting to hold ceremonies for women in need. 

But now, they've got their eyes set on something bigger — building a Clan Mothers Healing Village and Knowledge Centre, where Indigenous women can go to to heal from trauma, addiction and sexual violence.

"We're right at the core of Winnipeg, but you know, once summer comes you'll see … it's beautiful," Elder Mae Louise Campbell said of the Point Douglas home where the Clan Mothers currently meet.

Once the trees are in bloom, "nobody can see in here at all, so we can do drumming and singing and the women could go into the sweat lodge," Campbell said.

"It was a kind of gift, the fact that we ended up purchasing this place that nobody else would live in." 

The group is now in the planning stages for its healing lodge.

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"We're building a village — it's not just a healing place, it's a village," Campbell said.

"I pray every day for people to see the importance of this and to recognize that our women have to heal." 

Healing 'takes a lifetime': elder

The Clan Mothers Healing Village and Knowledge Centre will offer land-based healing, with a focus on Indigenous ways of thinking — something Campbell said would have helped her when she started her healing journey years ago. That included reconnecting with her Anishinaabe-Métis culture, which she knew very little about, and acknowledging the harm alcoholism had caused her and her family.

"My desire, first of all, was to heal myself. I had to heal the way I saw myself, the way I felt about myself," said Campbell.

"I went through all that process and realized after a while that there's so many women — especially Indigenous women — that feel just like I do."

Elders Mae Louise Campbell and Belinda Vandenbroeck are part of the Clan Mothers. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

After years of working with Indigenous women in Winnipeg, Campbell says many programs offered are too short to guarantee recovery. At the healing village, women will be able to shape their healing process to fit their needs. 

"How can a woman heal in a month, even in a year?" Campbell said. "I'm 87 years old and I'm still healing. So it takes a lifetime."

Elder Belinda Vandenbroeck has been sober for 45 years, and says she was only able to start her healing after learning to love herself. 

"As long as I live, I'll probably be reading and researching and trying to find anything that's going to help you feel good about yourself. But most of all, to love yourself first, that's so important," she said.

"We just assume that everybody loves themselves. No, they don't." 

Location secured

Though the healing lodge is just in the beginning phases of development, it's already getting a lot of support, including a recently announced $100,000 grant from the Winnipeg Foundation.

The foundation, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021, said it wanted to give its first grant of the year to an Indigenous organization. 

"The foundation has been on this ongoing journey of truth and reconciliation, particularly as it relates to our philanthropy," said Megan Tate, the Winnipeg Foundation's director of community grants.

"Clan Mothers is an organization that is really just at the start of their journey and their work, and so we felt that they're an organization that would really benefit from that boost that a grant from the Winnipeg Foundation could bring."

The Clan Mothers already have a location secured for the lodge — a more than 50-hectare plot of land north of Winnipeg. It was gifted to them from the Réseau Compassion Network, a charitable organization formerly known as the Catholic Health Corporation.

"The Catholic Church had some land, and gifted us with [it]," said Campbell. "I thank Creator for that, I thank the people who did this as part of truth and reconciliation."

She didn't divulge the exact location of the future lodge — in order to protect the women at risk who will use it — but did say it was beautiful, and is a site where people have gone to heal before. 

The Clan Mothers Healing Lodge

3 years ago
Duration 2:25
Indigenous women in need will soon have a place to heal from trauma, addiction and sexual exploitation. The Clan Mothers, a grassroots organization of Indigenous elders, will launch a healing lodge later this year.