A first in the Chilcotin: Tl’etinqox builds six-unit Elders complex

An Elders complex is nearing completion in Tl’etinqox (Anaham). Launched before the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was delayed once the disease was declared a global health crisis. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
The units were purposely kept small as a means to require little upkeep while providing Elders with their basic required needs says Ashton Harry. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Zirnhelt Timber Frames carpenter Del Escott is proud to be working on the Elders complex at Tl’etinqox.(Rebecca Dyok photo)

Crucial holders of Indigenous tradition, knowledge, culture and values will have the opportunity for a living space of their own at a First Nations community west of Williams Lake.

Finishing touches are being added to the six cabin-like homes specifically designed for Tl’etinqox Elders.

“There was a lot of team effort in bringing this here, and it was something that has also been in our community comprehensive plan about having a safe space for elders,” said Tl’etinqox Government executive director and councillor Ashton Harry.

Tl’etinqox had initially envisioned one single complex for Elders who could then continue living on-reserve and not have to leave for other communities such as Williams Lake.

“But the funding that we applied for didn’t support that and this is what it supported,” Harry explained.

“It got us one step closer, so there still is a hope and there still is that drive to one day have that facility here so our elders aren’t leaving the community.”

Read More: A pit house for a Tsilhqot’in family

Nestled near the Elders centre where the community’s deteriorating ice rink once was, the units were strategically placed to form a circle.

“It’s exciting,” Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse said. “We got the four different colors to represent the different races, and within our culture a circle often represents a lot — it represents the cycle of the seasons, cycle of life and that’s a continuation of beginning or end.”

Like many First Nations across the country, infrastructure is needed at Tl’etinqox for either what is lacking or to replace what has been deteriorating. Overcrowding is an issue and it’s believed most homes are chock full of mold.

“Every city you go into you see First Nations people living out on the street, and in rural First Nations communities like this don’t have adequate housing so there’s a big need,” Alphonse said.

“Probably about 60 per cent of our population live off-reserve, so we want to do as much we can to get accommodations to bring our people home.”

The siding, windows, walls and timber work of each unit was prefabricated in 150 Mile House by Zirnhelt Timber Frames before being transported more than 100 kilometers via Highway 20 to Tl’etinqox.

Each unit is approximately 640 square feet with an air of coziness captured through the natural beauty of timber.

“It’s really one of those projects that makes you want to get up in the morning and focus on,” said Sam Zirnhelt.

“It’s pretty special. Tl’etinqox was amazing to work with.”

The Elders complex is anticipated to be ready for the elders to move in by Nov 1. Each unit will rent for $250 per month.

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