Founded in 1994 by Brad and Shauna Seneca, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society is an essential hub of community services. When it was first founded, the organization primarily provided housing for Indigenous youth. “If you go hunting and you don’t have a good spirit about you, then your arrows won’t hit their mark. That’s where the name came from. It was referring to youth who didn’t have that love poured into them, so they weren’t hitting their targets,” shares Keleigh Larson, Senior Manager at Bent Arrow.
By continually devoting themselves to community and ceremony, Bent Arrow has grown since they were first founded 28 years ago. They now offer 22 different programs, ranging from housing, employment assistance, and youth and family services. “Our mission statement is really about helping families walk in both Western and Traditional worlds,” says Larson, commenting that, while many families receive education, there’s often substantial gaps in Traditional Knowledge. “Traditional Knowledge is so important. You need to have both.”
Another part of their growth includes finding gaps in their community and clientele and seeking to fill these needs with programs and partnerships. Their partnerships include the City of Edmonton and the C5 group (which also includes Boyle Street Community Services, Edmonton Mennonite Centre, Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre, and Terra Centre for Teen Parents). Although their clientele may differ from the other C5 organizations, Larson notes that this partnership has helped Bent Arrow in a variety of ways. “If it’s an issue for teen parents or newcomers to Canada or Indigenous families, then it’s probably an issue for everyone. That’s where we’ve really been able to advocate to government for change or for funding.”
In addition to their partnership programs, Bent Arrow offers cultural programming like beading and sewing nights, powwow nights, and seasonal events, like their annual Community Christmas Dinner that serves approximately 3,000 people. They’ve also expanded to offer virtual programming, which Larson notes is an outcome of the pandemic.
For Larson, one of the best ways to support Bent Arrow is through spreading awareness, education, and support of Indigenous communities. “Partake in learning about culture and celebrating Indigenous youth and families. Make space for Indigenous art and artists and be an advocate and an ally.”
The organization is currently accepting online donations and volunteers for their upcoming events. Readers are encouraged to reach out if they are interested in partnering with Bent Arrow.
Donate to Bent Arrow here.