Salt River First Nation opens new building in Fort Smith

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Salt River First Nation celebrated the grand opening of its new business and conference centre on Sunday evening.

The building, already a Fort Smith landmark, resembles the shape of the First Nation's land when viewed from above.

The territorial government is leasing space in the building to house a local courtroom.

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“This iconic building marks a milestone in the evolution and history of SRFN,” read a poster advertising the grand opening.

“Since the signing of our Treaty Land Entitlement claim in 2002, our leadership has worked hard for the benefit and success of our members.”

Fort Smith's "White House," as some have taken to calling the new building, has not met with universal acclaim.

The Salt River First Nation new business and conference centre in June 2018, prior to the white siding being put up. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
The centre under construction in June 2018. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

The First Nation borrowed $16.7 million from the First Nations Finance Authority to build the centre. At meetings with Salt River's councillors, some members have claimed that money could have been directed to housing or jobs.

In the Finance Authority's summary of loans to First Nations across Canada, it was estimated the resulting economic output of all loans, including Salt River's, would equal $33.9 million and 115 jobs.

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Salt River is now paying the Finance Authority $95,000 a month against its loan.

Chief Frieda Martselos declined to comment on the opening of the new building.