Mannawannis Native Friendship Centre in St. Paul honoured elders with a little personal pampering on Valentines Day, as part of the centre’s Lateral Kindness Initiative.

“For Valentine’s Day we did a kind of a pampering thing for the elders,” said Mannawannis outreach worker Val Williams. “I was painting nails. We had someone come in and do haircuts for men. We offered bannock tacos, or ‘Indian tacos’ as some people refer to them as, and then they played bingo in the afternoon and everybody went home with a prize.”

The day was an opportunity for people to meet up and catch up, she said, “because it has been so long. People’s spirits are down and they’re not able to see people. So we figured this was a good way to celebrate the elders and have them come together.”

There was a good turnout, she said. “We probably had 15 to 20 elders come out, so it was great. Everybody visited and mingled and I think had fun.”

Pandemic restrictions have limited the centre’s usual cultural activities. Williams says it’s important for elders and young people to be able to get together.

“We’ve been finding that we’re missing the cultural part in our day, so having the elders come to the centre is helping us to learn and stay connected,” she said. “We do as much as we can with the elders.

“Hopefully once the restrictions lift, we’ll be able to do stuff with our youth group and our elders group together, so the elders can teach the youth.”

The Mannawannis Centre has built a sweat lodge, and is hoping to be able to use it for the spring solstice in March.

“We’re hoping for spring solstice to have a ceremony and hopefully a sweat,” Williams said. 

“We’re also working on a transition house, so people coming out of rehab will have a place to go to get back on their feet where we can help them with housing, help them with looking for a job, just help them get back to society as much as they can.”