Ground Breaks on Indigenous Cultural Hub in Nelson
The Tenth Street Campus Indigenous Gathering Space overlooking the West Arm of Kootenay Lake began to take shape in mid-July and will result in vital building blocks for cultural wellness, education and growth in the Nelson region.
A partnership between the City of Nelson, Selkirk College and regional Indigenous nations, the covered wooden outdoor gathering space will be completed in the autumn. Announced in March 2022 as part of the provincial government’s 150 Time Immemorial Program that’s administered by Heritage BC and First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation, a $220,000 grant was received to make the project a reality.
When finished, it will serve as both an Indigenous cultural gathering and ceremonial space for the entire community. It will be a central focus for community events, celebrations, performances and learning related to Indigenous history, education, truth, justice and reconciliation.
The location of the gathering space overlooks the traditional travel routes and gathering places for the Sinixt, Syilx and Ktunaxa peoples prior to colonial settlement. The first of its kind in Nelson, the beautiful new space is part of the municipality’s commitment to truth and reconciliation.
“The Indigenous Gathering Space is an exciting development for the City of Nelson as we advance on our truth and reconciliation journey,” says Mayor Janice Morrison.
"Modeled after the successful Indigenous Gathering Place at Selkirk College’s Castlegar Campus, this transformative project was made possible through a grant secured by the City's Cultural Development Officer and our partnership with Selkirk College. We take great pride in the collaborative efforts that have brought this project to fruition.”
The gathering space is an amenity for the entire community, placing a focus on providing a location for Indigenous peoples to gather knowing they have a safe space to practice cultural ceremony, learn, heal, celebrate, connect, witness, and partake in advancing truth and reconciliation.
Built of timber and tin by Squamish-based First Peak Contracting, the gathering space will include the history of Indigenous peoples of the region and feature mural panels created by regional Indigenous artists.
Located on a vibrant post-secondary campus, the space will support Indigenous students enrolled in Selkirk College programs to practice cultural wellness such as the smudge, explore food sovereignty through connection to the land, hear stories and history of place from Indigenous voices, and practice cultural traditions of song, dance and healing.
Nation Elders and cultural teachers will be able to use the outdoor space for creating a place of healing, learning, reconnecting, truth telling and reconciliation.
“Having culturally safe and welcoming spaces at various campuses is one of the college’s Indigenization Plan goals and this project provides an important Indigenous learning space,” says Dianne Biin, Selkirk College’s Director of Indigenous Education & Engagement.
“Indigenous learning spaces provide a holistic way to transfer knowledge through storytelling and ceremony. The ability to have sacred fires are a form of healing and reconciliation as Indigenous peoples and students in the area can reconnect, reengage, and remember our traditions and practices.”
An Indigenous land blessing on the location of the gathering space took place in summer 2022. A ceremony to officially open the Tenth Street Campus Indigenous Gathering Place is being planned for October.
Ground has been broken on the new Tenth Street Campus Indigenous Gathering Space in Nelson. A project led by the City of Nelson and set to be complete by autumn, the amenity will provide a location for Indigenous peoples to gather knowing they have a safe space to practice cultural ceremony, learn, heal, celebrate, connect, witness, and partake in advancing truth and reconciliation. — Submitted photo