Earlier this year the Blood Tribe Opioids Communications Task Team launched a billboard contest asking for the community’s help that would send out a meaningful message of hope in the face of the opioid crisis. Fifteen Blood Tribe members wrote in their concepts of what kind of message they thought our community, as a whole, needed to hear. The majority of the ideas were rooted in encouragement, concern, hope, and compassion which made it challenging for the selection panel to choose one. In the end, Jessica Fox, from the Blood Tribe, won with her concept. In her essay, she recalled listening to our elders in one of her classes as a Masters student:
“One of our Elders … mentioned how when there was a bad storm, buffalo [Iinnii] did not run away like other Plains animals did,” wrote Jessica, “They faced the storm and actually walked towards it. I think this concept is what should be used for the billboard. The buffalo facing the storm is the message our people need to see and hear, especially when facing the Opioid Crisis. This problem is not going away until we face our problems and find ways to heal.”
As essays were submitted, a call for Blood Tribe artists was made to bid in taking the winner’s idea and creating the billboard’s art in collaboration with the Opioids Communications Task Team. Nikki Many Bears won the bid and developed the beautiful artwork seen today. Her attention to detail ensured her work reflected the power of the message to make an impact to our membership, especially our youth. Her use of font style to placement of her graphics took hours to complete, but she did so from her heart and concern of her own community.
The overall message the Communications Task Team wanted to concentrate on was a strength-based approach to draw on our inner abilities to recognize the value of life, experiences, family, resources, knowledge, language and our way of life – to name a few. The ‘Niitsitapi Resilient’ billboard message will remain on display indefinitely.
“It is time to change the narrative around the opioid/methamphetamine crisis taking place amongst First Nations communities across Canada” said Alayna Door (Many Guns), Blood Tribe Opioid Response Coordinator. “We are Niitsitapi strong, resilient, and it is crucial to come together to continue healing. This billboard is just a small representation to this narrative.”
The Communications Task Team would also like to thank the following for their valuable contributions:
William Singer III
Marjie Crop Eared Wolf
Chad Bare Shin Bone
Dr. Esther Tailfeathers
Blood Tribe Communications and Community Engagement Staff – Lenora Many Fingers, Peetah Bastien and Todd Eagle Child
The Blood Tribe Communications Task Team: Pam Blood (Chair/BT Communications Director), Alayna Many Guns (BT Opioids Response Coordinator), Lenora Many Fingers (BT Communications Assistant), Brice Iron Shirt (Chief of Police, BTPS), Cst. Samantha Pedersen (BTPS), Travis Coleman (BT Emergency Services Acting Fire Chief), Nadine Tail Feathers (BTA Senior Management), Brent Scout (BTDH Communications Specialist), Terri-Lynn Fox (KWC Program Director), Verona Tailfeathers (Kainai Wellness Center)
“Niitsitapi Resilient” Blood Tribe Opioid Task Force Billboard at the entrance to Red Crow Park along HWY 2 in Standoff, AB.
(L to R) Starly Brave Rock, Melissa Many Fingers-Healy, Bonnie Bonnie Weasel Moccasin, Sherry Cross Child, Alayna Many Guns, Lacy Devine, Pam Blood, pose with the “Niistiapi Resilient” Blood Tribe Opioid Task Force Billboard, at Red Crow Park, Stand Off, AB on April 22, 2022.