A partnership between two diverse groups in Calgary has come together to address a major concern about access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

In June 2021, an alliance was created between an indigenous community group and the Sikh community.

Traditional drummers at the Friday event.

Loren Andreae/Global News

Together, the Aisokinakio’p became associated with the Dashmesh Cultural Center and administered 10,000 vaccinations.

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Aisokinakio’p is the Blackfoot word for “a place where you take your body and mind to make them healthy.”

Dashmesh Cultural Center.

Loren Andreae/Global News

On Friday, the two got together to celebrate their potentially life-saving success.

Dr. Salim Samanani is the medical director of a health services company that supports indigenous communities. okaki it’s Blackfoot for “Be wise.” Okaki facilitated the immunization clinics.

“What started out as a tense and awkward situation, very quickly people let their guard down and started seeing each other as human beings.”

Amanpreet Singh, president of the Dashmesh Cultural Center, said their connection is based on trust.

Dashmesh Cultural Center.

Loren Andreae/Global News

“The language barriers were there, but here we always have volunteers who help and feel more comfortable walking with the elderly,” Singh said.

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Calgary Aboriginal Friendship Center CEO Shane Gauthier said the link formed very organically and made sense.

“The community welcomed this. We want to walk a path of reconciliation of love and understanding and the seven sacred teachings with our neighbors,” said Gauthier.

Vaccine clinic at the Dashmesh Cultural Center.

Loren Andreae/Global News

Both cultures honor the fundamental practices of sharing and caring for others.

Siksika Health Services Executive Director Dr. Tyler White said it was about giving other communities access to COVID-19 vaccines in a culturally safe space.

Siksika mobile health unit.

Credit: Siksika Health Services

“As First Nations people, we have many health challenges and issues on reservations and many social determinants of health factors that influence the health of our nation,” White said.

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“Other communities are in similar situations and it’s great that we can come together with a common purpose to address those common problems.”

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said it should be a model for the rest of the country.

“This community achieved the highest vaccination rate in our province, with 99 percent of people over the age of 12 having at least one vaccination.”

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