Sheshatshiu hopes new cultural centre will be part of a healing process

·2 min read
Jack Penashue, Sheshatshiu's social health director, seen here in a file photo, says the goal of a new cultural centre is to teach and celebrate Innu culture. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)
Jack Penashue, Sheshatshiu's social health director, seen here in a file photo, says the goal of a new cultural centre is to teach and celebrate Innu culture. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)

Officials are in the early stages of planning a new cultural centre for Sheshatshiu, one that will house Innu artifacts returned to Labrador from all over the world.

Jack Penashue, Sheshatshiu's social health director, says while the development of the project is in its preliminary stages, the intention is to create a space not only to keep artifacts safe, but ultimately create an environment for growth.

"It is going to be a healing process," said Penashue. "For me it is, because what we've lost is coming back. Hopefully, we can store it in a way that's more acceptable to our families."

The building will be located on the north side of the community, near what locals recognize as the old sawmill toward the highway.

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

The community has partnered with Montreal firm Evoq Architecture to complete the project. shares Penashue's vision for the centre. Asked if the project's goal of being a source of healing to the community put more pressure on the firm, Evoq founding partner Fournier said it did the opposite.

"It has to be a place that people feel belongs to them," said Fournier. "We talk about healing — a sense of pride is part of the healing. This is what we want to generate from this building. Those are the feelings that we want to create, that we want the building to create as an environment."

According to Penashue, the centre will not just be a storage facility for returned artifacts but — perhaps more important — will also teach visitors about Innu culture.

"That's the whole intent," said Penashue. "I think it will be an area where we can display our uniqueness, our culture, our principles, and all these things in terms of what the Innu Nation believes in. We want to educate people, we want to bring forward the positive side of being Innu."

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

The million-dollar question is when the dream will become a reality. All parties involved are eager to get the ball rolling, but want to make sure the finished product meets their high standards, along with those of the community at large.

"In a few years," said Fournier with a laugh. "It's down the road, but we can feel there's a real great, positive buzz. We can feel it's real."

AUDIO | 'Irreplaceable' audio of deceased Innu elders among research materials, artifacts to be returned to Labrador

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