“Kimmapiiyipitssini”: The Scourge of Fentanyl and Opioids in the Kainai Blackfoot Community in Southern Alberta: Toronto Hot Docs

“Kimmapiiypitssini” in Blackfoot in short means empathy and involves giving kindness to each other and feeling for others and you are blessed if you show it. Perhaps for me it is a vital component of mindful living.

Aa one police officer on the Blackfoot Reserve in Southern Alberta muses what would our people be like without colonization.

Yes many of us know about how the “Indians” of yesteryear succumbed to firewater but now, as with much of North America the latest scourge is fentanyl and opioids that are ravaging this Blackfoot reservation. No family is unaffected and not being in an urban centre treatment options are limited.

The documentary paints a dire picture of the drug plague in the Kainai First Nation in Southern Alberta. The documentary presents an exhaustive analysis of the rampant drug abuse problem facing the community.

The community is fighting back doing the best that it can and you’ll hear from physicians, nurses, EMS personnel, addicts, addiction counsellors, pharmacists and the many involved in what I see as an anti-addiction industry.

Thousands of lives lost mostly young adults in the 20–40-year-old range. It is so bad many babies are born addicted and need rehab through morphine so that they do not die from withdrawal. It is so bad that in 48 hours at one point there were 22 overdoses in the reserve.

Fentanyl raised its ugly head in 2014 on the reserve and the documentary certainly transmits the feeling of grief and loss amongst all the families.

The solution involves pouring resources, time and effort like battling a forest fire that is out of control. But the community is not giving up despite a battle between those of the older generation where alcohol was the killer and abstinence was the cure but these are new types of poison where perhaps “harm reduction” is a newer and more appropriate solution such as safe injection and drug taking sites.

Perhaps Lethbridge offers better resources but the indigenous population is not welcome there by white residents and prompting white resident Bradley Grey to beat to death a Blackfoot Indian and seriously injure another. The community of the Blackfoot responded by starting the Sage Clan street patrol a few nights a week to check for Blackfoot’s in danger. Sadly Sly Daniels a member of the Sage Clan a former addict later succumbs to an overdose.

Then there are Leah and George who you might classify as lost cases their faces ravaged by years of alcohol and drug abuse that come across as perpetual losers in their struggle to reach sobriety. George has been a victim of residential school abuse that has ravaged his soul.

The documentary presents a comprehensive view of how things are which we should be grateful to producer and writer Elle-Maija Tailfeather for but the question of why this happened might have been further explained. One professional in the battle may have summed it up by saying the drug abuse problem can be traced back to residential schools, inter-generational disconnect, lack of education, lack of  proper education, lack of proper parenting, lack of job training, lack of hope and no training on life skills. And perhaps a lack of Kimmapiiyipitssini by the Alberta government that cut funding to addiction resources in Lethbridge Alberta that now gives Lethbridge the highest rates of death due to drug poisoning in Canada.

Yet in our Canadian media we hear more about “Black Lives Matter”, an American concept, than we do about “Indigenous Lives Matter”. This is Canada not the United States. For me it is about “All Lives Matter”.

This world premiere documentary is part of Toronto Hot Docs and is just over two hours in length. It is available in Canada only from April 29 to May 9. Tickets can be purchased at https://hotdocs.ca/p/hot-docs-festival

See the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmbaZdnpZkU&t=3s

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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