Meet the face of SAPPHO's campaign, Alexis, find out about the great work done at Kilala Lelum and read more about why we got involved to help support Indigenous health and healing in the community where we live and work.
Alexis (Lexi) Fisher, our model, hails from the ʾakisq̓nuk First Nation in Windermere BC. She was raised on St. Mary's Reservation but now lives and works, as SAPPHO does, as an uninvited guest on the stolen lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), səlil̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations – commonly referred to as Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Alexis was raised on her traditional, ancestral and unceded Ktunaxa territories (now commonly known as Cranbrook, BC) immersed in her Ktunaxa culture – learning her language, singing, drumming, and dancing with her maternal family. Alexis comes from generations of survivors: her father is a Sixties Scoop survivor, her grandmother along with many Elder relatives are Residential School Survivors and she herself has first-hand experience in the child welfare system – the current, severely flawed system that has replaced its predecessors in preventing Indigenous peoples from being Indigenous.
Alexis has both a bachelor’s in social work (BSW), specializing in child welfare and a master’s (MSW) in social work and presently works in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver, as a Social Navigator for the Kilala Lelum Health Center. She is also embarking, as an entrepreneur opening her own Indigenous counselling practice and is continuing to explore modelling. “Modelling is my newest venture.” She adds, “My reasons for doing this are like my reasons for doing anything – to raise awareness and representation of Indigenous people. As a little brown girl who grew up in a sea of white faces, I never saw my culture or myself positively reflected in mainstream media. It is time to change all that.”
A collaboration: how the Give Back campaign came together
SAPPHO New Paradigm, since autumn 2020, supports the Urban Native Youth Association with a portion of the sales of our Skin Luminizers and to further our actions, we planned to do the same with the launch of our new red lip gloss. We read about Alexis and the Kilala Lelum Center, months earlier, in a CBC article about the DTES and so we decided to call her to ask if she was interested in modelling and much to our delight, she said yes!
We had an incredible photoshoot in July, with Alexis as the face of our campaign, but the release of the red gloss in our newly designed 100% PCR (recycled plastic) tubes, had to be delayed due to the pandemic. We were quite disappointed: we had this great formulation and all these wonderful photos and no tubes until Spring!
Then, as news of the recent discoveries at the Residential Schools unfolded and awareness grew globally, Gina Lin, CEO of LIBO COSMETICS, a packaging partner in Taichung, Taiwan, asked me about the discoveries. A few days later, after our conversation about the history of Residential Schools and the need for reconciliation, the LIBO team wrote and said: “Our company wants to donate empty lip gloss tubes to raise funds for this cause.”
Thrilled, I contacted Lexi: “We are using your photos and we have this opportunity to raise a substantial amount of money. What program would you like us to support with this campaign?” She answered, “Kilala Lelum!”
Kilala Lelum (meaning Butterfly House) Urban Indigenous Health and Healing Cooperative
- Kilala Lelum consists of a multi-disciplinary team that goes beyond traditional clinical methods to provide holistic and culturally based care for residents in Vancouver’s DTES.
- Elders work alongside physicians to provide culturally safe, trauma informed services guided by the values of equity, wellness, respect, love & kindness.
- Kilala Lelum provides medical services with an emphasis on cultural safety as well as relational and social care to honour mental, emotional, and spiritual healing.
- Their team serves Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, guided by Elders and their traditional, Indigenous ways of being when appropriate.
- Kilala Lelum participates in research that aims to promote health equality and Indigenous Peoples health and wellness, establishing measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes for Indigenous peoples and to recognize, respect, and address the distinct health needs of the Métis, Inuit, First Nations, and off-reserve Aboriginal peoples. Relevant studies are published on their site.
Kilala Lelum is a place where one can recognize themselves in others and can connect to Indigenous teachings and cultural activities, as well as have medical issues addressed in a non-judgmental way.
In addition, Kilala Lelum offers outreach and daily support for those that cannot visit the center. The outreach support includes medication visits with members, food security deliveries, as well as case management. The latter involves assessment, planning, facilitation, evaluation and advocating for services to meet an individual’s holistic healthcare needs.
Indigenous people have suffered and still suffer physically, emotionally, and spiritually at the hands of a colonial medical and social system, rife with prejudice and brutality – trust has been broken, however those at Kilala Lelum work daily to re-gain the trust of their community – one person at a time, with Elders’ wisdom and guidance.
Our world is a better place because of the Kilala Lelum Indigenous Health and Healing Cooperative.
Give Back to Kílala Lelum with us!
Help us reach our donation goal of $10,000 by end of 2021 to support the Kilala Lelum Center’s great work in health equity for those living in the DTES.
Purchase our limited edition Speak Volumes Lip Gloss in Chelle (red) while they last!
To further support:
The Downtown Eastside, Vancouver – a personal reflection from joAnn
I went to college in Toronto to become a childcare counsellor in 1974 and worked for over 10 years in the field before starting makeup. My last job lasted for 3 years, working in the East End of Vancouver, running small groups with kids identified at-risk. I worked with a team that consisted of a family support and a social worker, providing support and guidance within the family and community.
- The DTES is one of our oldest neighbourhoods and has the highest proportion of Indigenous people in the city at 31%. Until the 1980’s it was a poor but stable community – efforts by the NDP at the time were earnest but attempts at programs for Indigenous teens i.e., Kumtuks, which was among the first alternative schools ( and I mean portable) in the East End, were a good start but still rudimentary. Funding, however, for many programs, was soon laid to rest by enduring colonial prejudices and corporate greed.
- In the late 80’s, social programs were abandoned (or privatized), mentally ill people were forced out of treatment facilities, trained childcare workers and family therapists were deemed redundant en masse: the Indigenous, the old, the addicted and the vulnerable were left with few resources. Privatized entities sprang up, but it was not a cohesive system.
- We saw our first “street people” and “bag ladies”, homelessness became part of our consciousness but was not framed by our society with compassion; treatment centers for teens started admitting kids with histories of violence – mixed in with kids just on the edge – there was no support for anyone and as the system ‘adjusted’ thousands of kids fell through the cracks.
- The DTES became a haven for drugs, poverty, and crime – there were and are valiant individuals that have persisted in trying to help but our governments, from the Social Credit (Socreds) through Clark’s Liberals, placed human dignity for all on the back burner as individual and corporate wealth took precedence over people.
- The Indigenous population, with a legacy of residential schools, of attempted genocide, of degradation, rape, and murder at the hands of the Canadian government and Clergy were ignored and suffered even more.
- Generations grew up with fractured families, with members often turning to alcohol and drugs for respite. Any attempt to acknowledge the present situation was virtually impossible as the past continued to be ignored by our colonial society.
- Programs such as the Kílala Lelum Urban Indigenous Health and Healing Cooperative and the Urban Native Youth Association are two groups that have persisted despite an uninterested society riddled with systemic racism and amid some of the greatest pain in North America.
- The knowledge of what occurred at the Residential Schools run by Clergy and Government is not new: individuals, for years, have tried to tell their stories, tried to enlist the system's help, programs were started in the 80’s and just abandoned, documentaries were made – few listened.
- Those that did listen and persevere, like those involved in Kilala Lelum and UNYA deserve our respect and support, more than ever.
To take action and give back – Purchase Speak Volumes Lip Gloss in Red now.
Or donate directly to Kílala Lelum:
The KUU-US Crisis Line Society: Operates a 24-hour provincial Indigenous Crisis Line for Adults and Elders at 250-723-4050; Children and Youth at 250-723-2040; Toll Free at 1-800-588-8717
First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line and Online Counselling Service: Toll free at 1-855-242-3310
Metis Crisis Line: Available 24 hours a day at 1-833-638-4722
Indian Residential School Survivors Society: 1-800-721-0066 or 604-985-4464 to access the following cultural supports: Sadie McPhee, Gertie Pierre, or Yvonne Rigby Jones. Emotional mental health and counselling services will be accessible for the IRSSS Resolution Health Support Workers.
Tsow Tun Le Lum: 1-888-403-3123 to access the following cultural supports: Levi Martin, James Quatell, Mike Kelly