Photo courtesy of Manfred Joehnck

A First Nations treatment centre nestled in the Qu’Appelle Valley, northeast of Regina, celebrated 10 years of operation today.

Karen Main is the executive director of Leading Thunderbird Lodge. It’s an addictions treatment centre for Aboriginal boys between the ages of 12 and 17.

Main has been the executive director of the centre since the beginning. She has seen a lot of changes, and has experienced the ups and downs of trying to help someone break free from addiction, but she says it has all been worth it.

“There are always challenges that you face, but what has kept me here is graduation. If you were to come to graduation and see the youth after three months, the transformation is amazing,” she said.

One of the recent graduates is Phoenix Peters from Tisdale. He says he was lost and in a lot of emotional pain when he began treatment, but today he is enjoying his life drug-free.

“I used to feel dead inside, with no emotions whatsoever. Like I didn’t care about anything or anybody, just living life, but didn’t feel like I was alive. But after I came through this place, I don’t know, I found happiness here,” he said.

The boys stay at the centre for three months. They receive schooling, as well as addiction treatment. Clients come from right across the country, including the Northwest Territories.

Traditional Native healing is a big part of the treatment plan. Peters says the traditional part of the treatment really connected with him and gave him a sense of purpose and belonging. He plans to become a chef.