Our History

A wholistic approach to healing and wellness.

The history of the Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society began with a vision. In 1986, Ruth Scalp Lock and a group of concerned individuals wanted to create a shelter where Aboriginal women and children could seek refuge from family violence and all forms of abuse in a uniquely Aboriginal atmosphere. The shelter’s mission would be to provide a traditional wholistic and spiritual approach to help Aboriginal women and their children through the healing process with the support of their community.

This approach included practicing the teachings of the Aboriginal Medicine Wheel, participating in ceremonies such as smudging and healing circles, and receiving Elder counseling and support. The shelter would be a place where Aboriginal
women could reconnect with their Aboriginal culture and continue their healing journey after leaving the shelter.

The name “Awo Taan” was given to Ruth Scalp Lock by her late grandmother, Margaret Bad Boy of the Siksika Nation. In a blanket ceremony, Ruth Scalp Lock gave the name “Awo Taan” to the Calgary Native Women’s Shelter, renaming it the Awo Taan Native Women’s Shelter Society. In 2007 it was renamed to Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society to better reflect the purpose of this organization as being more than a women's shelter, but a place committed to making a safe and healthy community.

Ruth organized a dedicated committee made up of members from the Aboriginal community, representatives of the Alberta government, the educational system, police services, and the private sector. Gerri Many Fingers was instrumental in leading the committee in finding a suitable location for the shelter and for raising the capital needed to build the shelter. Operating costs were covered by the government and through funds raised from a home lottery. Nelson Gutnick was a special advisor to the committee, providing mentorship to the committee and assisting in the shelter’s development. Other members of the committee included:

Marlyne Fraser King
Denis Whitford
Bob Coultier
Joanne Crook
Rachael Hoof Sr.
Rachael Hoof Jr.
Pat Whitney
Elder Annie Bare Shin Bone

During 1993 and 1994, the founders, board of directors, staff and many volunteers from the shelter created a crisis counseling training program that contained a significant amount of Aboriginal content. This program was designed to train shelter staff, Calgary agency staff and the public. During this time, the group also launched the Calgary Head Start program, which was sponsored by Health and Welfare Canada.

On March 10, 1993, an interim shelter was opened in an old apartment building donated by the City of Calgary. The Alberta government provided core operational funding, while the Home Lottery raised capital costs.

Two short years later, the Awo Taan Native Women’s Shelter Society moved to its current location in 1995. In its first decade of operations, the shelter went through many changes, including a name change, evolving visions and missions, and the evolution and expansion of many programs. All of these changes have been positive and progressive in that they have enabled the shelter to provide more comprehensive services and programs to Aboriginal women and children, and to women and children from other cultures, who suffer from family violence and abuse, and to help them through the healing process with the support of their community.


Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society is A Women's Emergency Shelter in Calgary, Alberta