Kw’umut Lelum opened the doors of its newest location in Duncan last month, marking a new chapter in the organization’s 23-year history of offering culturally integrated services to indigenous families in mid-Vancouver Island.
The new location at 151 4th St. in Duncan will house a team of social workers, family support workers and wellness staff, and will provide a service hub for member nation families in Duncan, Malahat, Halalt, Penelakut, Ts’uubaa-asatx (Lake Cowichan) and Stz’uminus.
“This expansion is about more than just providing needed services to aboriginal families,” Kw’umut Lelum executive director William Yoachim said. “This is about returning the rights to indigenous communities to be able to care for their own children.”
Kw’umut Lelum provides services rooted in traditional Coast Salish teaching, including child safety and family support, cultural programming, mental health, wellness and recreation services, and caregiving supports.
The organization was originally mandated to provide services only to people living in the communities (“on reserve”), but has been expanding its jurisdiction since 2018 when it opened its first urban office in Nanaimo.
Beginning this fall, Kw’umut Lelum will be providing services for member nation children and families in the Duncan area that currently have files with the Ministry of Child and Family Services. This includes any open child services files for children in or out of care, family services files, and any open incidents or investigations. Any new services required by member nation families in Duncan will be referred to Kw’umut Lelum instead of the ministry.
With three different child and family service organizations — including the ministry and Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem — serving indigenous people in the Cowichan Valley, there was some concern about confusion over which agency a family might call or be referred to. Cowichan Tribes families will continue to be referred to Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem, and those with connections to Kw’umut Lelum member nations (including Halalt, Lyackson, Malahat, Penelakut, Stz’uminus and Ts’uubaa-asatx) will go to Kw’umut Lelum.
“We are working with these agencies collaboratively to ensure that everyone is able to access the services they need, from the organization who is in the best position to serve them.” Yoachim said. “There is no wrong door to the right service.”