Canada and the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations break ground for historic Gukwdzi (Bighouse) Project
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July 9, 2022 — Tsulquate Reserve, Port Hardy, British Columbia — Crown−Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
Investing in cultural spaces is crucial to addressing the root causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals. Indigenous groups have also highlighted culturally centred spaces as essential to self-determination.
Today, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nation Leaders broke ground at the site of the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations' Gukwdzi (Bighouse) Project. The Government of Canada is providing $8.93 million through the Cultural Spaces in Indigenous Communities Program towards the project, which will be a safe space where Gwa'sala and 'Nakwaxda'xw men, women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people can practise and share their culture, traditions, and languages.
Historically, the Gukwdzi was the Nations' seat of government and focus for community gatherings and ceremonies, but the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations have been without a bighouse since they were forcibly relocated to the Tsulquate Reserve over 50 years ago. This space is essential to the identity of the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations, and to their ongoing efforts to provide future generations with a path forward that is governed by traditional ways of knowing that are distinct to Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw's unique relationship as stewards of the land and keepers of their knowledge. The start of this construction represents the culmination of many years of effort by the Bighouse Society, leaders, Elders, and community members.
Budget 2021 announced $108.8 million over two years for the Cultural Spaces in Indigenous Communities Program. This investment is part of the Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, the Government of Canada's contribution to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls, Women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan and supports the response to Call for Justice 2.3. This transformative program supports Indigenous Peoples in reclaiming their identity as part of their journey towards self-determination.
"The Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations have waited two generations to gather in a Gukwdzi, a central institution of governance for their communities rooted in traditional values and practices. The Gukwdzi provides a safe space for people to celebrate together, to mourn together, to discuss and to make significant decisions together. This ground breaking is long overdue, and I would like to congratulate the Bighouse Society, leaders, Elders, and community members who made this possible; this is your accomplishment."
The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations
"Every Nation has a safe place where they hold ceremonies. Where important events in life are marked, like a child's arrival, coming of age, marriage and funerals. Or the Nation has a special building where leaders gather to plan and make decisions about their community, their resources and their lands. We, Gwa'sala and 'Nakwaxda'xw have not had this for almost half a century since we were relocated out of our own Homelands.
This bighouse will be that place, that safe place where we can do our business. It will serve us where we can come to celebrate, express who we are, what families we are tied to and our connections to the lands through our ceremonies.
As Chief of the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations', I want to acknowledge everyone who has helped us get to this place so far. The Government of British Columbia contributed to the land preparation, drawings and carvings and the Government of Canada who have provided funds to build and complete the Gukwdzi over the coming months. Also a big thanks to our community who continue to work with our funding partners to make our Gukwdzi dream become a reality."
Chief Terry Walkus
"It means we have a place to call ours, that was specifically designed, created and built for us. We take pride in our Culture, our Stories, Our Language and Our People. This 'home' will give us the opportunity to teach. We have a place to do our work, our governance, our ways to describe to the world at large who we truly are as the 'Nakwaxda'xw and the Gwa'sala."
Joye Walkus – Gukwdzi Project Coordinator
The Government of Canada continues to work with provinces, territories, Indigenous organizations, families, Survivors and communities across the country to make progress on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan.
The Federal Pathway is the Government of Canada's contribution to the National Action Plan and outlines the Government of Canada's efforts, now and in the future, to end gender-based violence and systemic racism responsible for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
The National Action Plan was co-developed by:
- the National Family and Survivor Circle;
- representatives of First Nations, Inuit, Métis and Indigenous grassroots organizations;
- Indigenous, provincial and territorial governments; and
- Indigenous urban and 2SLGBTQQIA+ leaders.
- Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations
- Cultural Spaces in Indigenous Communities Program
- Backgrounder: Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People
- The Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People
- Budget 2021
- 2021 MMIWG and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people National Action Plan
- Support for the Wellbeing of Families and Survivors of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People Contribution Program
For more information, media may contact:
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations
CIRNAC Media Relations:
Gordon Black, Director Kawatsi Economic Development Corporation,
Gwa'sala 'Nakwaxda'xw Nations
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