In early August, Kw’umut Lelum opened its doors to a new service hub in Duncan.
Kw’umut Lelum is a Delegated Aboriginal Agency (DAA) that offers services to nine member nations, including Halalt, Ts’uubaa-asatx (Lake Cowichan), Lyackson, Málexeł, Penelakut, Qualicum, Snaw-naw-as, Snuneymuxw, and Stz’uminus.
The new service hub will increase accessibility to services to member nations in and around the Duncan area, and includes access to a team of social workers, family support and wellness staff.
“Cultural connectivity is at the heart of what we do as an organization and we are excited to be able to expand our work into urban Aboriginal communities on the island,” says Jennifer Holstein, the communications and information officer at Kw’umut Lelum.
Duncan was identified as an area with overlapping agencies, including the Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD), Kw’umut Lelum and Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem, another DAA on Vancouver Island that services the Cowichan Tribes.
“Traditionally, our membership did not fall under these colonial boundaries,” says Bill Yoachim, executive director of Kw’umut Lelum. When asked why it is important to Kw’umut Lelum to have urban service hubs, Yoachim says, “We are in a colonial system, and originally Kw’umut Lelum was designed to serve our members on reserve, however, two-thirds of our membership live off-reserve.”
For 23 years, Kw’umut Lelum has been based on the Snuneymuxw First Nation and has been offering a broad range of culturally relevant programs and services. This includes Child Safety & Collaborative Family Planning and Cultural Permanency Planning.
As a DAA, its mandate was originally to provide services to community members living on-reserve. But since 2018, Kw’umut Lelum has been expanding its jurisdiction to provide services for Indigenous children and youth in care who are members of the nine member nations, but are currently receiving services from MCFD.
In 2019, Kw’umut Lelum opened its first urban service hub in Nanaimo to meet the increase in demand for culturally relevant services.
Now, files held by MCFD for children and families of the nine member nations residing in Duncan will begin to be transferred, Yoachim explained in a phone interview.
The opening of the hub in Duncan comes at a time when Indigenous nations in the province are actively seeking further authority over the care and well-being of their children.
In a press release issued by Kw’umut Lelem, Yoachim says, “This expansion is about more than just providing needed services to Aboriginal families. This is about returning the rights to Indigenous communities to be able to care for their own children.”