The Cree word Sagitawa has no direct translation into English, therefore the rough translation of this word is “a gathering place, where the rivers meet." This word holds very true to the essence of the Sagitawa Friendship Society. Sagitawa is a place where all people can come as they are without fear of rejection or judgement. The heart of Sagitawa is the people that we serve, community, and culture.
The Sagitawa Friendship Society was created by a group of Peace River community citizens with a vision to have a warm welcoming place for travellers and out of town visitors who came to do business, a location where all people could go to while waiting for appointments, buses or other transportation, and to assist people with other services.
We are a community that accepts, respects, and supports all people.
Using Indigenous knowledge as a foundation, we provide opportunities that empower individuals to reach their full potential.
We recognize the value and dignity of all people including their values, rights, and beliefs.
We are willing to face uncertainty, fear, disapproval or emotional pain rather than compromise our values.
We genuinely care about the wellbeing of others in a non-judgmental manner that is motivated by a desire to help.
We are responsible for our actions and decisions as individuals and as an organization.
Honesty & Integrity
We are truthful and sincere in our actions and words, and strive to do the right thing at all times.
The Sagitawa Friendship Society was incorporated under the Societies Act on September 24, 1964, to become the third Friendship Centre established in the Province of Alberta. Through a generous donation from the Town of Peace River, the Society obtained the Dominion Government Telegraph building and the land. The doors opened on October 2, 1964. A used furniture drive commenced as community members donated bits and pieces of household items. By year-end, travelling and transient Indigenous visitors to the town had a comfortable contact point. The original Board of Directors was comprised of six Indigenous and six non-Indigenous directors. Claude Campbell, Peace River lawyer, was elected by acclamation to remain the Board chair for Sagitawa. Also elected to the Board of Directors were Raymond L’Hirondelle, Barney Cote, David Ellis, Lady Anne Gunning, Sir Robert Gunning, Willie Coutourielle, Ed McGillvery, Agnes Thomas, Vern Flett, Agnes Piercell and W.F Ray.
In 1966, the board and staff hosted an official grand opening of the Sagitawa Friendship Society. Claude Campbell, chair of the Board of Directors, spoke at the official opening. James Ferguson the manager of Sagitawa hosted tea for visitors. Following the tea, music, dancing and singing, was made available, until the official portion of the program was held at the Athabasca Hall. During the event, various dignitaries gave speeches followed by a Pow Wow.
House by the Bridge
The “House by The Bridge” served as the Sagitawa Friendship Centre until July 1980 at which time the Society relocated to a new building. This was achieved by the dedicated efforts of a group of individuals who raised funds and accessed grants to build the new centre.
Throughout the years various programs were made available by Sagitawa Friendship Society. These included cultural supports such as Cree language lessons, craft workshops, women’s group, Elder groups, various youth programs including the Ground Level Youth Centre. Numerous other community support and preventative services have been offered over the years.
Hide 'n Seek
One of the Society’s longest running endeavors has been the Hide 'n Seek handicraft store. During the Hide 'n Seek store’s inception, a committee was elected to investigate the possibility of promoting native handicrafts. Members of the special committee were Daisy Flett, Agnes Piercell, Ed McGillvary and L. Tardief. The committee explored all the potential to be derived from native handicrafts and the possibility of incorporating this into the Sagitawa handicraft operations. The committee used this approach to create the Hide n Seek Handicraft store.
Today, more than fifty years later, Sagitawa Friendship Society continues to welcome and serve the public, providing a variety of programs for all ages including the Ground Level Youth Centre, Northern Indigenous Health Alliance (NIHA), cultural programming, food security, advocacy and housing supports. The Hide 'n Seek Handicraft store is also still operational, and efforts are underway to expand and grow the store.
The Sagitawa Friendship Society’s administrative office is located on 10108 100 Ave Peace River Alberta. This office includes office space for staff, the Hide 'n Seek Handicraft store and a hall/full kitchen in the basement. The Ground Level Youth Centre (previously known as “House by the Bridge”) is the Sagitawa Friendship Society’s second location and it is located on 9718 94th Avenue Peace River. This building includes office space, a fully functioning kitchen, a culture room, an art room, a computer room and a music room. The Ground Level Youth Centre is utilized to run youth programs and community workshops.
The Sagitawa Friendship Society envisions a community that respects and accepts all people while promoting the enhancement of the quality of life of Indigenous people through culturally-based programs and services as guided by the wisdom of our Elders.
“The doors to the centre must never close.”
- James Ferguson, first manager of the Sagitawa Friendship Society