Fourth-year anthropology student Amy Cran spent her summer on the streets of Lethbridge working with SAGE Clan Patrol (Serve, Assist, Guard and Engage), doing grassroots community patrol assisting people experiencing addiction and homelessness. Amy utilized participant observation techniques to conduct her research, First Nations Approaches to Addiction Treatment in Southern Alberta, allowing her to work closely with SAGE Clan Patrol.

The purpose of this research is to understand how SAGE Clan approaches their work and how this might be similar to or different from that of other Lethbridge agencies and broader treatment philosophies (ex: harm reduction, abstinence-oriented treatment). I wanted to understand if and how SAGE Clan Patrol uses Blackfoot culture to inform how they engage with the people they serve.

What attracted you to this research?

I became interested in these kinds of topics with the closure of ARCHES in August 2020. At the time, I didn’t have any experience in this field, but I was deeply concerned about how this change could impact people experiencing addiction in our community and started volunteering with another local outreach group in Fall 2020. Supervised consumption services became a very polarizing issue in Lethbridge around this time, and I explored this through the lens of racialized geographies and notions of belonging in an independent study supervised by Dr. Patrick Wilson in Spring 2021. An article that resulted from that independent study was recently accepted for publication in the Carleton Undergraduate Journal of Humanistic Studies. This combination of experiences led me to work as an Addiction Support Worker at a local Lethbridge agency the following summer, where I really enjoyed connecting with clients and hearing their stories. It was through these clients that I first learned about SAGE Clan, and I was really struck by how positively they spoke about volunteers from this organization. I could tell there was a lot of mutual respect and love in that relationship, especially among Indigenous clients, and I became interested in how this organization was able to foster that, on both a personal and academic level.

Has this experience been valuable to your education and/or degree?

This experience has been valuable in so many ways—both personally and academically—and I find that I learn something new every time I go out on patrol. In terms of the experience that relates to my degree, having the opportunity to plan a research project, apply for funding and ethics approval and actually conduct fieldwork has been invaluable. I have heard my professors talk about this process many times before, but I have gained a whole new perspective (and some practical skills) having now gone through it myself, even on a smaller scale. On a personal note, volunteering with SAGE Clan has also been a very healing experience for me. Emotionally, this is a very difficult sector to work in, and the support and sense of community within this organization have kept me steady.

What do you enjoy most about conducting research at ULethbridge?

I cannot emphasize enough how much support I have been given by my professors and peers, and how positively this has impacted my university experience. My supervisor, Dr. Patrick Wilson, has been with me every step of the way during this project and is always there to offer advice and encouragement, without which I know I could not have taken on this project in the first place. Professors I have worked with in other capacities have supported me through the Community Bridge Lab by writing recommendation letters and by offering a listening ear. As a Fellow with the Community Bridge Lab this summer, I have also benefitted a lot from the conversations with students pursuing their own research interests across disciplines and the peer mentorship this lab encourages.

What skills and/or experiences will you be taking from your research project into the future?

On a practical level, this research has allowed me to develop skills in research planning, proposal writing, writing field notes and as the project progresses, interviewing and qualitative data analysis. The volunteers of SAGE Clan Patrol have also taught me a lot about empathy, the importance of trust and what it means to show up for our community members, which are experiences I know I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Overall, this experience has solidified my view that good community-based research is not best done in a vacuum; my time with SAGE Clan is bigger than just a research project, and I think it is that kind of relationship-building and connection to the cause that is needed to develop the level of understanding required to ever write honestly about an organization.

Amy’s work with SAGE this summer showcases some of the fantastic initiatives from Chinook Summer Research Award recipients who excel in their fields of study. She offers excellent advice for ULethbridge students who have been thinking about dipping their toes into research within their fields.

My biggest piece of advice would be to just ask! I remember being very nervous about pursuing my first independent study (which snowballed into this project) for a lot of reasons: I was worried that my research idea wasn’t any good, unsure of how independent studies worked and concerned that it would be too challenging for me. After reaching out to Dr. Wilson and getting such a receptive response, I realized that a lot of these fears were unfounded. Looking back on it now in the final year of my degree, it is incredible to think of all the opportunities that that initial email opened up for me, and how it changed the trajectory of my university experience for the better.

Her drive to incorporate Blackfoot knowledge to help those in the community will make a big difference in so many lives. Please join us in celebrating Amy’s achievements and wishing her the best in her future endeavours. We cannot wait to see what amazing things she will accomplish next.

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