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Our Story 

Red Deer Native Friendship Society is an Indigenous non-profit charitable organization that has been helping families, youth, elders and children connect to their cultural values and traditional teachings since 1984. RDNFS is part of a network of over 100 Friendship Centres facilitating the transition of Indigenous people from rural, remote and reserve life to an urban environment. They offer a safe place for Indigenous people to obtain referrals to cultural based programs and services. 

In the early 1980's local Métis families and other concerned citizens were disturbed by the troubles faced by Indigenous people migrating to the city, and so the Ralph Hanley family opened a small gathering place. The group called a meeting to get organized and Frank Winnie was elected Chairman of the first Board of Directors. The group applied for and received funding from the United Way, Family Community Support Services, and the Alberta Secretariat and RDNFS officially opened its doors. RDNFS became incorporated under the Societies Act as a non-profit organization in 1984.


Winnie recalls the lean beginnings, where the first agenda item of every board meeting focused on how to pay the next month's rent. The early days of RDNFS were modest. There were three staff who focused their efforts on providing a home away from home for Indigenous people and connecting them to each other, the community and local resources. Some early members included Beverly Keeshig- Soonias, Peter Priest, Kim Jernak, Darryl Lickers, Sarah Carr, Lyle Keewatin Richards and Douglas Campbell. They operated the LaBase program which taught survival, literacy, employment and computer skills. There were no other local Indigenous services and many hopeful newcomers found the only support they received was a bus ticket back to their home reserves.


Despite these struggles, RDNFS demonstrated that it could raise enough local support to stay open and was eligible for federal support. Elder Tom Cranebear created and presented the Red Deer eagle staff to the Friendship Centre for the community at this time. In 1985 the Society received their first federal core funding and became a fully-fledged member of the National Native Friendship Centre Movement.

We have a new vision: the vision of a Community Gathering place. A space where community members would enjoy affordable housing, wrap-around support services and cultural and ceremonial events. This dream has been partially realized through a partnership between Municipal Affairs Housing, the City of Red Deer and the Friendship Society. Four acres of land has been set aside by the City of Red Deer for the development of a new Indigenous Cultural Wellness Centre, Asooahum Crossing.

Today, we are actively developing Asooahum Crossing: a safe place for our families, youth and elders to grow and flourish. You are invited to join us in community building by becoming a member of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society or become a financial supporter through a one time donation to the capital project or become an ongoing supporter. Call us to explore volunteer opportunities currently available.

Located in the traditional meeting place of the Cree, Niitsítpiis-stahkoii, Ĩyãħé Nakón mąkóce, Tsuut’ina, ​and ​Michif Piyii​ people​ of Treaty 6 and Treaty 7 along the original trading route of the Métis people, RDNFS provides cultural programs and services in health, social services, family preservation and traditional parenting, housing support, education, and cultural connections for all people of all age groups.

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