Ranch Ehrlo Society is highlighting the local elders and kohkums who are working with participants to provide cultural connection to our programs.

This special series will introduce the knowledge keepers working in our group homes, sharing the ways of their ways of knowing, and contributing to cultural preservation and revitalization.

Read the introductory series story to learn more about this initiatve. 

It isn’t a job but rather a calling that brings Colleen Chief to visit the youth at Ranch Ehrlo’s Welke House each week. The Saskatoon-based knowledge keeper has built strong relationships with the staff and participants, dedicating her time to sharing and teaching.

“This is my purpose in life, this is what I’m meant to do here,” she said of her visits. “These young people need to be guided; they need to be listened to. They deserve a world full of love rather than chaos.”

Colleen has worked with youth throughout her life, working in various capacities at her home reserve in Onion Lake Cree Nation and in the Saskatoon area. She draws from experiences as a single parent and foster mom, former youth camp operator, language translator for children’s books, and most recently, from her position as a cultural support worker for the Royal University Hospital. 

Collen first worked for Ranch Ehrlo in 2013, when she completed her practicum for a post-secondary youth care worker certification. When a fellow elder later approached Colleen in 2023 about working as a knowledge keeper for the agency, she didn’t hesitate. Colleen officially started work with Ranch participants and programs, again, on March 14th of last year.

“Most of the youth don’t know about our (traditional) ways. This way they can learn about their culture, and they have time to express themselves,” she explained. “Once they know where they come from and their history, they will feel a belonging, a purpose, and a respect for their own identity.”

When Colleen first meets the youth, she begins with a smudge to cleanse themselves and to connect to their spirit and the Creator. She then introduces herself, shares about her work with children, and assures the youth that they are safe.

“My Cree name is kâ -kâ - kichihât which means I bring their spirit back to the light,” said Colleen. “Many times, after I’m done meeting with the youth, I see the light, their light, and it’s beautiful. It gets to the point where tears of joy fall, just by being together.”

“But always, I don’t do this work on my own,” she said faithfully. “I’m always praying to the Creator to be with me or to work through me.”

Colleen works one-on-one with the youth to introduce and discuss traditions, beliefs, and values. Often, these teachings are integrated into projects and practices (such as beading) that organically evoke curiosity and conversation. It’s through these activities that lessons are learned and connection to cultural identity can be created, said Colleen.

“I feel very humbled to help young people. I hope my work with these youth inspire them to follow their goals, their dreams, and to live to their full potential.”