A traditional gathering place for practicing Indigenous knowledge and activities is about to open, in spite of challenges presented by thieves and vandals.
Band manager Edward Wright said there has had a few issues with people damaging the garden at the meeting space, which sits right behind the band office. A teepee covering was also stolen, but because the site is under video and human surveillance the culprit was caught and it was recovered.
“We need people to respect that this is for everyone,” said Wright.
In spite of the setbacks, the gathering place is coming together on schedule. Wright said the space was going to be a multi-purpose space, for workshops teaching traditional practices like working with hides, trapping, traditional medicine, carving and arts, but also for cultural celebrations and dances — as well as a nice place to drop in for tea and bannock.
Two additional tents have also been set up, with one intended as lodging for guests who would prefer an experience closer to the land. The site also sports several new benches and a stone fire pit. Wright said the project was focused on band membership but usage of the site would be open to everyone.
Noting the band was still stockpiled with geese and other country food to keep its membership fed, Wright added the band was also hoping to establish a smokehouse to preserve food.
“We’re trying to do a traditional one,” he said, though added expansions to the gathering space may have to be done in phases. “We’re going to make it what we can.”
Chief Robert Charlie said he hoped the sight would serve as a teaching spot for elders to pass traditional knowledge on to youth, in particularly on the land skills such as hunting, trapping and fishing.
“We depend on a lot of traditional foods,” he said, estimating the gathering space would be ready within a few weeks. “A lot of the younger people don’t know the elders’ stories. They lived a really good life on the land and we need to give that to them.
“We’re excited about it and want to have a grand opening.”
Charlie said the site is just the latest of numerous services provided by the Inuvik Native Band to its membership. He added the vandalism and thefts may have slowed development of the gathering space down, but work on it has continued regardless.
“It is an ongoing challenge keeping strong engagement with our everyday members,” he noted. “But in spite of the challenges that keep coming up, we keep on going.”