Local, regional, and provincial First Nation leaders, chiefs, mayors, and government representatives gathered with hundreds from the surrounding community for the grand opening of Nadleh Whut’enne Yah, Nadleh Whut’en First Nation’s new government house, on Oct. 22.
Emceed by Chief Dan George of Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation in Burns Lake, the day of festivities opened with drum and song from local elders in ceremonial address.
A red ribbon is then ceremoniously cut in front of the complex’s main entrance by 86-year-old elder Nellie Nooski, 15-year-old Maxim Landon George who lives with developmental challenges, and eight-year-old Charley Schmidt who represents the community’s youth.
Celebrators then toured the new complex, which includes a health centre, council chambers, administrative offices, historical and cultural display, industrial community kitchen, learning centre, a multi-use gymnasium and hall, as well as an outdoor amphitheatre.
The complex features pithouse-inspired designs for its lobby and council chambers, high ceilings with south-facing skylights to decrease its ecological footprint, and is designed to last for over 100 years.
Speaking to the attendees, Nadleh Whut’en Chief Larry Nooski recognizes teamwork from the current council, as well as previous chief and council, in order for the building to come into being.
“Every time I’m here, it reminds me of a joke years ago,” Nooski said. “An Indian standing on a corner and said, ‘Chance, chance, chance.’ A white person comes up and said, ‘Don’t you need to say help?’ The Indian said, ‘Me no need help, me need chance.’
“We would like to welcome you to our new legacy. It’s here we will unite people for the betterment of our children, economic development of the region; it’s a place of healing and dignity that we all need in this era of reconciliation.”
Former Chief Martin Louie, standing with the previous council, thanked the community to allow him to lead.
“It’s a lot of money that we didn’t have, but a dream that we have,” Louie said. “This building was three storeys at one time, then we spread it out, as we thought about our elders, and we design it so we can keep it as efficient as we can.
“Before we can have reconciliation, we have to do it ourselves among ourselves. I cannot sit back to wait for the government to save us.
“This goes to show a little of what we can do when we work together.”
Assembly of First Nations regional chief Shane Gottfriedson, minister of Aboriginal Relations John Rustad, Chief Terry Teegee of Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, as well as chiefs and mayors from surrounding communities also offered words and gifts of congratulations.
Nadleh Whut’en’s traditional performers then continued the festivities with song and dance, and the community’s youth introduced themselves to the audience in the Carrier and English languages.
Dinner was provided by Saik’uz First Nation catering, and evening celebrations included Nadleh-born hypnotist John Ketlo and community talent show.