shíshálh Nation welcomes families to Our House of Clans

After years of hard work, shíshálh Nation’s Our House of Clans has officially opened.

More than 60 community members joined local leaders and government representatives to celebrate the grand opening of shíshálh Nation’s Our House of Clans building in Sechelt on May 17.

Two-thirds of the residential tenants have already moved into the 34 long-awaited affordable housing units of the Tsain-Ko development that broke ground in 2020.

Friday’s celebration began with an opening prayer and songs before honoured guests were invited to speak.

shíshálh councillor Rochelle Jones started the ceremony and reflected on the property’s past, how it used to be the grounds for the St. Augustine Residential School administration building.

“We have walked together in reconciliation and continue to try and right some of the wrongs of the past and we have made some strides,” Jones said. “This is part of what we are here to recognize today.”

“I am so very proud to be part of our organization today,” said lhe hiwus yalxwemult (Chief Lenora Joe). “There's so many staff that work so very hard at making all of these things happen for us, for our people.”

yalxwemult said that the Nation has a strong working relationship with the province in trying to meet their housing needs. She highlighted that there are more than 200 people on the Nation’s housing list and approximately 700 Nation members living outside of their community who want to move home.

yalxwemult also noted that many Nation contractors worked on the new building. Three Nation member-owned companies worked on the project and more than 40 Nation members were employed to help on the project.

The province, through BC Housing, has contributed $7.2 million through the Indigenous Housing Fund.

Patrick Weiler, MP for West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country, announced that the federal government invested $2.8 million through the affordable housing fund to help build Our House of Clans.

He also stated that the day was about turning a new page and starting a new chapter in a more positive future. He noted how long the community has worked to achieve this project.

Weiler recalled learning from the late master carver, ?antuni Tony Paul, who started the reconciliation pole that will be placed behind the building. “He guided me – and about, I understand, 1,500 other people – in also adding their hands to this project,” he said.

The reconciliation pole is scheduled to be raised on June 22.

Nicholas Simons, MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast, who is winding down more than two decades in office, was emotional as the celebration marked possibly one of his last public speeches. Before his political career, Simons worked for shíshálh Nation. He spoke fondly of the teachings he had from Nation members, saying it prepared him for his work with the government.

“I'm very proud of the fact that our governments are finally taking the necessary steps to try to undo some of the injustice that will never be undone,” he said, “to try to make amends.

“This community, which I have such affection for, is showing such strength and has shown such resilience.” Simons said. “Others can learn as they look over to this shore and see the successes that are possible.”

An inside look

Once the ceremony had finished, members of the public were invited to tour the new facility and see for themselves the fruits of a dedicated community’s labour.

Each of the building’s floors is named after a different shíshálh family clan and has its own community space.

Above the entrance is the “Canoe of Animals,’ showcasing the animal spirits representing some of the Stutula family clans such as ḵ’aykw (Eagle), stalashen (Orca), weweḵw’nach em (Wolf) and mayukw (Bear).

Throughout Our House of Clans, inside and out, traditional artwork is featured, adding a personal touch, including cedar artwork done by local artists.

A large, commercial kitchen and fitness room, underground parking and a “Reconciliation Plaza” gathering area are also available for tenants.

The development also features commercial space, New Beginnings Apothecary is set to open in the next few months and Tsain-Ko Group of Companies will open their head office around November.

The apartments have spacious patios and the south-facing units have an unobstructed view of the ocean. Several officials joked about moving in after the tour.

Jordan Copp is the Coast Reporter’s civic and Indigenous affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

Jordan Copp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Coast Reporter