Representation is important.

Youth have been given the opportunity to see themselves, hear their languages, and understand their cultures more than ever before, with the help of dedicated knowledge keepers.

Jamie Lerat, Ranch Ehrlo’s Indigenous advisor has appealed to the hearts of local elders and kohkums, forging invaluable relationships to benefit youth and programs.

Elders and kohkums now visit many of our homes, on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, to connect and share with the youth.

“This really helps connect the youth to their culture, to their identity and to their true self,” said Jamie. “We have had the voice of the Indigenous community within the agency for a long time, and we’re very grateful and fortunate to now have these (knowledge keepers) share their voice directly with the youth.”

In 2023, 86 per cent of Ranch Ehrlo participants identified as being of Indigenous descent.

“The presence of the First Nation Elder has not only enriched the lives of the youth but also contributes to Ranch Ehrlo’s commitment to truth and reconciliation,” said Jamie. “By incorporating cultural elements into our programs, we are fostering a holistic cultural approach that contributes to an individual’s purpose, cultural identity, sense of belonging, and well-being, while further nurturing relationships with the Indigenous communities.”

It’s important to highlight the support being offered by the elders and kohkums because it gives such enrichment and empowerment to the lives of the youth, said Jamie.  

“We need to honour our elders and kohkums because they are the book of knowledge when it comes to our culture,” she explained. “When they go into their communities and speak, people listen.”

Sarah Ovens, a program manager in Saskatoon, said she has seen the positive effects of the elder-youth relationship firsthand.  

“Our staff and youth absolutely adore him,” she said of the elder who visits May and Welke House monthly. “Over time, the youth have become more and more interested in spending time with him. The benefits to both youth and staff have been immeasurable.”

There are now nine programs working with elders and kohkums on a frequent basis. Jamie is working on growing the relationships for two additional programs, with the anticipation of more to follow this year.  

“It is through initiatives like these that we make a lasting impact on the lives of those we serve,” said Jamie.

Each of the knowledge keepers making a difference at Ranch Ehrlo will be introduced in a special series presented over the next several months. Keep an eye out for the introduction and celebration of these beautiful people.