LISTEN: Welcoming service helps Indigenous newcomers in Edmonton

Friday, May 18th, 2018 10:42am




By Brittney Pastion of CFWE-FM Contributor


The New in Town welcoming service was created by Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society. The primary goal of the not-for-profit service is to support newcomers and connect them to resources around Edmonton.

For some Indigenous people, moving into the city is an overwhelming task to find work, shelter and cultural connections. The healing society is trying to change that.

“We offer our service which is a supported referral process,” said Bryn Herbert with the program.

The Edmonton-based service starts by hearing from their clients first before identifying what they need to be successful. The dedicated workers will even go so far as to go into the community with their clients as a support system to ensure that they feel strong enough to continue their new life.

Although the program is meant for newcomers (a year or less to the city), Herbert said they try and provide a helping hand to anyone who needs it.

Among all the help that is offered, housing is one of the biggest challenges, said Herbert, “even if a person has done their homework and pre-planning,” it can still be very difficult to navigate the housing system coming from a smaller community to the city. 

Another common difficulty that people have is genuinely acclimatizing their mental state. The ability to come to terms with mental stresses can indicate the success of the client.

To help with mental stresses, the New in Town service offer help though a crisis line, counseling services and cultural support. 

The healing society prides itself on its knowledge and connections to the people of Treaty No.6 while appealing to all nations as well.

The program sees a lot of people coming through their doors from all across Canada and they do their best to make the majority of cultural support relevant to those seeking help. The cultural aspect plays a big role to provide a safe and inclusive environment in an urban setting so that newcomers can still have prayer, ceremony and traditions.

 “That internal component is so important,” said Herbert, “especially in my transition (to the city).”

“It's more than just actually leaving a geographical location. It's changing your mindset,” said Herbert, who also made the big move to the city from his home community Yellowknife, N.W.T.

It didn’t take long for the feeling of loneliness to sink in after moving to attend MacEwan.

“I remember that first evening,” said Herbert. “I turned on APTN and, luckily enough, a program about northern peoples was on.”

After the relief of feeling at home listening to an Elder talk that reminded him of his grandpa, he fell asleep.

He uses his personal experience has a driving force to motivate himself in the program thinking about those who come to the city that are brave enough and have the inner strength to start a new life, as he did.

New to Town’s main office is located at Parkdale School, 11648 – 85 St. and can be reached by phone at (780) 481-3451.

“Any staff will be more than happy talk to anybody who have just arrived or who are thinking about coming even next year,” said Herbert.

“Please give us a call and don't hesitate,” he added.

For more information on the program go to: