Services to help inmates in Edmonton safely return to the community are lacking, but Buffalo Keeper NehiYaw Centre is dedicated to changing that. In fact, their mandate is to provide a continuum of care to former inmates from federal institutions who are returning to society after being incarcerated. 

“Buffalo Keeper is an [sic] Aboriginal social service agency providing services to the Aboriginal community of Edmonton, First Nations, Métis and Inuit, and non-Indigenous people,” says Brad Seneca, one of the co-founders and executive directors. “We also provide other services, [and] land base teaching camps for youth, children, and adults in the summer.” 

Their services are unique to the Indigenous community. “Our main goal and mandate is to see the success of our people through the programs we offer,” Seneca explains. “The inmates returning to society have very little offered to help them find the stability they need once they are returned to the community.”

Buffalo Keeper NehiYaw Centre offers an Elder counselling services program, a Nokomis (“my grandmother”) garden program where they teach children about growing food, and a partnership with Edmonton’s Food Bank to provide hampers for clients. 

Buffalo Keeper has a garden clients can use to learn about growing and harvesting food. | Supplied

“We provide housing referrals to all clients, we provide ceremonies for clients, a sweat lodge, [and] a pipe ceremony with soup and bannock every second Wednesday of the month at our office, open to all people,” Seneca adds. “We do a pre-employment training workshop. We also have a community Indigenous Liaison that sends us referrals from our partnership with John Howard Society and we get referrals from Edmonton Parole,” explains Seneca.

The main program that they offer to the community is Talking Stick. “It is an intense program offered only to the Indigenous community and geared towards the returning federal inmates to help them understand the intergenerational effects of residential school and residential school survivors,” says Seneca. “There is no cost to our clients for our programs. However, our Talking Stick Program, when presented to community reservations or agencies as a three-day workshop, costs $7,000 and they must provide lunch, accommodations for facilitators, and travel to site for clients.”

Buffalo Keeper was incorporated as a non-profit on Feb. 1, 2018 and received charitable status in January 2020. They opened their office in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood this past May.

They are currently looking for volunteers. Right now, they are looking for people to do Food Bank pick ups, help in the office, and helpers for ceremonies at the office and sweat lodge. You don’t need to be Indigenous to volunteer with them.

Visit buffalokeeper.ca to access more information, visit them on Facebook, or call them at 780.819.2192. For Food Bank orders, call 587.336.7756. “We help all people with the services offered; however, we are an Indigenous agency,” says Seneca.


Buffalo Keeper NehiYaw Centre
11654 95 Street
Open 9 am – 4:30 pm, Mon to Thurs