Manitoba First Nations are eyeing the gravel patch of vacant land at The Forks, known as Parcel 4.
The city-owned land, across from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, was nearly sold to a private company last year to develop a waterpark. Controversy over the plan ultimately prompted the company to yank its proposal.
On Thursday, the Forks Renewal Corporation and the City of Winnipeg announced they are undertaking a planning initiative to decide what to do with the land, which has been used for years as a parking lot. The initiative will include public consultations, urban designs and a development study.
The Treaty Land Entitlement Committee (TLEC) of Manitoba has now issued a news release stating several First Nations have a "keen interest" in developing that land, saying it's fitting to have a First Nations presence at the historic site.
"That is only makes sense to now to invite and engage First Nations to have an opportunity to have a real and meaningful presence at The Forks," said Chris Henderson, executive director of the TLEC.
The Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine rivers merge, has been an important place for First Nations for 6,000 years, according to historians. After the arrival of Europeans, it became a key meeting place for First Nations and fur traders.
Henderson said at least six bands are interested in the land. They envision building something like conference centre, along with a reconciliation garden.
"That could promote the ongoing reconciliation process between First Nations and mainstream Canadians, as well as paying homage to the memory of missing and murdered aboriginal women," he said.
The bands interested in Parcel 4 include Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, Buffalo Point First Nation, Rolling River First Nation, Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation, Sapotaweyak Cree Nation and the Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
The Manitoba TLE framework agreement was signed May 29, 1997, between Canada, Manitoba and the TLEC to address the outstanding land entitlement owed to the treaty First Nations.