Kwanlin Dün First Nation citizens and visitors will have a new place to gather next year.
The federal and territorial governments are contributing more than $25.75 million combined for the construction of a new KDFN community hub in Whitehorse’s McIntyre neighbourhood, with work starting this fall and expected to be completed by early winter of 2020.
Yukon MP Larry Bagnell and Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie Dendys, appearing on behalf of Community Services Minister John Streicker, made the funding announcement at KDFN’s administration building the afternoon of July 4.
The federal government is pitching in more than $19.3 million, while the Yukon will be putting forward $6.45 million.
The approximately 40,000-square-foot, energy-efficient building will replace KDFN’s current administration building and be home to a cultural resource centre, archival storage and display facilities, an elders’ lounge, a healing room and an event space, among other things.
It’s an important addition to the community, KDFN Chief Doris Bill said at the announcement.
“‘Community hub’ is described perfectly in its name,” she said.
“It will be a place where our citizens gather for meetings, gatherings, ceremonies or just to socialize. It is where KDFN citizens will come to learn about the various programs and services our government can provide. And it is a reflection of the people of Kwanlin Dün … It will provide an anchor, a signal that after a number of forced relocations, the people of Kwanlin Dün are here to stay.”
The community hub will also provide some much-needed space for KDFN government and administration, Bill told reporters.
“Well, you see these trailers out back? Over there?” she said, pointing out the boardroom window. “We’re currently squeezed into those trailers, we’re squeezed into housing that could be used for citizens. We are literally almost on top of each other in some cases. We’re screaming from space here.”
KDFN itself will be spending $3.2 million for the hub. The First Nation funded the design process, Bill said, which included a week-long “design festival” hosted by the First Nation last year to gather feedback from citizens.
Dendys, who previously worked as KDFN’s director of justice before jumping into territorial politics, said that she knew it had been a “long path” for KDFN to get to this point.
“I want to say just how vitally important (having a community hub) is to the well-being of the Kwanlin Dün community,” she said. “I know that many of you have followed the stories along the way of community safety and community wellness and the vitality that’s growing in the Kwanlin Dün community and I’m proud to say that I was part of helping build that vision and today is an emotional day for us because this is … a new chapter for the Kwanlin Dün community and for Yukon.”
Dendys pointed to the importance and success of the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre “in regards to the many cultural and social opportunities it provides for Kwanlin Dün citizens.”
Bagnell said the federal government’s investment was in more than just the physical structure of the community hub.
“Once complete, residents and visitors of all ages will be able to participate in traditional cultural events and educational programming while connecting with one another in an inclusive community space,” he said.
“…So believe me, when we invest in social infrastructure, we improve mental health, physical health, spiritual health.”
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org