A long-planned Indigenous cultural site is taking shape in the heart of Edmonton’s river valley.
Called kihciy askiy, Cree (pronounced key-chee-ask-ee) for “sacred land”, the $6.5-million project under construction in Whitemud Park is planned to open in early 2023, says Morgan Bamford, the team lead of Indigenous relations with the City of Edmonton.
“This is a huge milestone,” Bamford says.
The pavillion, which houses washrooms and changing facilities, is already erected on the 4.5-hectare site at 14141 Fox Drive.
There will be sweat lodges, an amphitheatre for outdoor learning and “an area for teepees and lots of trails and gathering spaces where groups that come to site can spend their time out in this beautiful part of our city,” Bamford says.
Lewis Cardinal says it is exciting to watch the dump trucks from Delcor Construction rumbling in and out of what he calls a “sacred” part of the river valley.
You can see more from Whitemud Park on Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. Monday on CBC TV and CBC Gem.
“This is our mosque, this is our temple, this is our cathedral. Our walls are these river banks, the creek that runs through it carries a lot of history,” says Cardinal, project manager for kihciy askiy with the Indigenous Knowledge & Wisdom Centre (IKWC).
“Our elders remember stories from their grandparents stopping here,” picking berries and harvesting plants with medicinal value, he said.
The project is a partnership between the city and the IKWC that has been 15 years in the making.
Cardinal says it will be a place of reconciliation in action, to which everyone is welcome.
Non-Indigenous people can learn about Indigenous culture through public programs, talking circles and things like guided medicine walks.
“We’re thinking of everybody, in our culture nobody is left behind,” says elder Fred Campion.
Campion, a member of the kihciy askiy Council of Elders, says that’s why access is key, pointing to the proximity of public transit.
“The fact that they can come here on a bus, to a site where they don’t have to worry too much about transportation, is a big thing,” says Campion.
He and many other elders have been on what Campion calls a “long journey” working to create this “safe place, where people can gather to reconnect with their spiritual and cultural identity.”
Campion estimated there are 80,000 Indigenous people in Edmonton and having kihciy askiy becoming a reality is an “opportunity for change — positive change — for our people.”
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