When the chief and council of Lutselk’e entered a substance abuse treatment program in October 1989, the vision was a stronger and healthier community.
Few probably thought a documentary spanning 26 years would follow.
But when chief Felix Lockhart and council completed an eight-week treatment program at Stoney Medicine Lodge in Morley, Alberta, a man named Anthony Perzel filmed their graduation ceremony.
For the next quarter-century, Perzel followed community leaders and filmed them as part of a documentary called Our Healing Journey.
The film premiered in Lutselk’e last November. On Wednesday afternoon, it made its debut at Yellowknife’s Capitol Theatre.
Lockhart, who’s spent the last 11 years living in Yellowknife, was the community’s chief back in 1989. He spoke with Moose FM before Wednesday’s screening.
“At one time there was an elder that basically approached me about drinking and drugging in our community,” Lockhart said.
“People were into binging so I don’t think there was any type of social drinking – once you got the opportunity to drink, you just go for it.
“We didn’t have a bar or liquor store so we had to bring it in by plane, snowmobile or by boat in the summer.
“It gets to a situation where it really affects not only us and our respective families, but throughout the community right from the little ones to the elders.”
Time for change
In the fall of 1989, Lockhart decided it was time for sober leadership. Soon after, him and council passed a band council resolution that forced leaders with substance abuse problems to enter treatment.
That resolution is still in effect to this very day.
“When we’re in that capacity, we need to speak for a large number of people on different issues so we need to be able to have a focus during our term,” Lockhart said.
“The objective is to have wellness in our community and a well-balanced community where people are given a chance to be human beings who can interact with each other in a positive way.”
Lockhart admits the issue of substance abuse is as prevalent in Lutselk’e as it is anywhere else, but says alcohol-related charges are down in the community according to police reports.
Within the next month, Lockhart expects to find out if the documentary will be featured during the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide event in New Zealand later this year.