New longhouse long time coming for Vancouver Island First Nation

·1 min read

Members of the Tsawout First Nation have lived without a longhouse for 11 years, but that's finally about to change.

The nation on Vancouver Island lost its last longhouse in a 2009 fire that destroyed the building where members of the community regularly came together to celebrate, share traditional knowledge, participate in sacred ceremonies and mourn the dead.

On Monday, after more than a decade of living without such a space, the nation broke ground on the site of a new longhouse on their reserve, which is located about 15 minutes north of Victoria.

"It was a great day," Chief Nick Claxton told CBC on Tuesday, adding that a longhouse is essential to the way of life and well-being of the nation.

Facebook/Tsawout First Nation
Facebook/Tsawout First Nation

Since the fire, Claxton said the nation has made do by using a local gymnasium or travelling to neighbouring nations for ceremonies.

But he said there are certain ceremonies the nation has not been able to do since they lost their own space.

"Something has been missing in our community and, lots of times without a longhouse, we almost had that feeling of homelessness, spiritually," said Claxton.

Supplied by Nick Claxton
Supplied by Nick Claxton

The new longhouse will be made entirely of cedar with large wooden beams and an earthen floor, and will include a dining hall and kitchen.

Members were fundraising for years to help foot the bill for the new build, Claxton said.

The price tag for the project is an estimated $1.7 million and construction is anticipated to be complete by fall 2021.