The well-being of Calgary and area’s Indigenous population has been shaped by historical determinants such as the legacy of the residential school system. More than 150,000 kids were removed from their families and sent to residential schools, where they were forbidden to speak their language and practice their culture. Many of the students were forced to do manual labour, while being subjected to physical, sexual, and mental abuse. The last residential school closed its doors in 1996—less than 3 decades ago. Today, two-thirds of urban Indigenous people report being touched by residential schools themselves, or via a family member.
The residential school policy was just one of several policies and practices that suppressed Indigenous culture, identity, and spirituality, resulting in significant loss of language, culture, spirituality, and traditional roles in Indigenous societies. This trauma, which was passed down from one generation to the next, resulted in many Indigenous people in Calgary and the surrounding area struggling to lead healthy, rewarding lives.
Research and front-line experience have shown that Indigenous people who experience healing and cultural connection are less likely to live in poverty or experience homelessness, and more likely to pass positive experiences to the next generation. To strengthen Indigenous cultural identity and support Indigenous people in healing, United Way invests in programs and services that aim to change the reality of all those impacted by trauma.