The Teetl’it Gwich’in Band Council hopes to secure $7.7 million in federal funding to build a new cultural building in Fort McPherson.
The band council has applied for cash from Infrastructure Canada’s Green and Inclusive Community Buildings program, which helps to pay for new energy-efficient, low-carbon structures or improve existing ones.
Band manager Trina Nerysoo told Cabin Radio the proposed cultural building would include 14 offices, a gathering hall with a full kitchen, and a display area for artwork and local artifacts.
“There is a huge need for this in the community, because there is no place in town,” Nerysoo explained. “We need a place where we can deliver our programs here.
“We serve our Elders, we serve adults, and we serve youth of all ages, and we want a place where people could … feel welcomed, and something they can be proud of.”
Work to conceptualize and design the building has been ongoing since 2019.
According to Nerysoo, community events were held in the hamlet’s hockey arena until the building was condemned and torn down a couple of years ago.
Without that space, she said, hosting gatherings and providing services can be challenging.
‘There’s a lot going on’
Programs offered by the band council currently include a community freezer and a justice program focused on crime prevention. Staff are preparing to hire the band’s first victim services worker to support people experiencing violence, while a men’s healing group has been started.
Nerysoo said a new community space would allow the Teetl’it Gwich’in Band Council to expand those services.
“If we can invite other communities to come over and participate – because we’ve done that in the past – we would love to do that,” Nerysoo said. “We would love to welcome other people and teach our traditional and cultural skills.
“There’s a lot going on that we’re excited about. Now, we just need a place to do it.”
The band council submitted its funding application earlier this year. Nerysoo said the upcoming federal election has delayed the decision-making process but she expects to hear back toward the end of October.
If the funding comes through, the band hopes to start construction next spring, employing people in the community to do the work.
“The deal is, if we get this, you have to hire locals,” Nerysoo said. “We want that to be a part of it. We want to build the people’s skills, too.
“All the people who are in carpentry say, ‘I built this building,’ and there’s just a sense of pride that they get when they’re telling me about that. I think that’s really special – it builds their confidence, and it’s going to help the community.”