Work begins on urban, on-the-land healing camp in Yellowknife

The camp will have a tent for elders to provide traditional healing and medicine, a tent where people can eat and meet, a large teepee, a sweat lodge and a fire pit.

Project will offer traditional health and wellness services to Indigenous people in N.W.T.

Donald Prince makes measurements before sawing a plank on a tent platform as William Greenland prepares to drill. (Emily Blake/CBC)

In the brush behind the Fieldhouse in Yellowknife, down a winding snowy path, you can hear the steady hum of a generator along with the whir of drills and the roar of a chainsaw.

The sounds are from Donald Prince, William Greenland and Alex Rymer, who have been hard at work over the past several days constructing the groundwork for an urban on-the-land healing camp.

Once completed, the camp — a project of the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation — will offer traditional health and wellness services to Inuit, First Nations and Metis people in the territory.

William Greenland, left, Alex Rymer and Donald Prince work on constructing a tent platform where elders will provide traditional healing and medicine. (Emily Blake/CBC)

Prince, who is the executive director of the foundation, said the camp also aims to reach the city's homeless population, giving them a place to access services.

Prince has worked in the mental health and addictions field for more than 23 years and said he's seen firsthand how on-the-land programs help people.

"If you can start somewhere in helping people to change their life for the positive, the effect is one-hundred-fold sometimes, and that's my motivation for doing this," he said.

"I'm looking forward to the time when people are going to say, 'Boy, this place really helped me.'"

Donald Prince said he’s seen first hand how effective on the land programs are. (Emily Blake/CBC)

Prince explained the camp will have a tent for elders to provide traditional healing and medicine, a tent where people can eat and meet, a large teepee, a sweat lodge and a fire pit.

He noted many Indigenous people have lost connection to their identity and that it's important to share knowledge and traditional practices. He learned about Dene way of life, stories and songs from his father growing up.

This pathway will connect the camp to the main trail. Donald Prince said he hopes the camp will reach the city’s homeless population and give them a place to go during the day where they can access services. (Emily Blake/CBC)

"There's so many people wandering around lost in a sense, not knowing where they come from, where they're going," said Prince. "You help them to find that, that's a big thing."

The camp is set to have its grand opening on April 24.

The Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation received $1 million from the Arctic Inspiration Prize in February.

There are also plans to have a future Indigenous wellness centre at the site of the new Stanton Territorial Hospital.