Akisqnuk community celebrates transcendent moment
By Erin Knutson
The Akisqnuk First Nation commenced with its celebration to welcome the first new major community housing project in over 25 years Friday afternoon at the new rec centre.
Members of Chief and council, the Akisqnuk Housing Committee, funders, and representatives from the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), BC Housing, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) were in attendance along with members of the community and tenants to celebrate the completion of their new six-plex housing facility.
“I want to thank the creator for bringing us together, and I want to thank all the people that helped with creating this venture for housing in our community. Housing has always been a shortfall from what I can remember,” said Akisqnuk Chief Alfred Joseph.
Funding to help establish and implement a new housing strategy for the Akisqnuk has brought the opportunity to build partnerships, meet needs in the community, and improve the quality of living for its members while creating a sense of pride and accomplishment.
“We’re here to celebrate a tremendous achievement. I’m passionate about this topic. I want to remind people that five years ago when I was moving home, and there was nowhere for me to live I stayed with my sister. I was a single father with two children at the time. The idea of our basic needs not being met—you need to meet your basic needs before you can move to higher learning,” said Akisqnuk Councillor Donald Sam.
First Nation housing initiatives provided by the province and contributing partners have made this development possible. It’s a transformational time according to Coun. Sam, who emphasized community engagement in the decision-making and capacity building process for the Akisqnuk people.
“We’re developing strategies as opposed to policies imposed on us from Indian Affairs—policies, developed by us and for us, policies that are culturally centred,” said Sam.
The six-plex is the first of three scheduled for construction. This project has given people hope and demonstrated that help is available through supporting partners, like the CBT, CMHC, BC Housing and Indigenous Services Canada who are there to help First Nations communities get where they need to be.
“The CMHC has been working with First Nation communities for many years, and culturally we’ve shifted. We want to enable First Nations to reach their goals and objectives using our partnerships with CBT, BC Housing, and First Nation Leadership — we’re here to make sure you’re successful,” said First Nation Housing Consultant for CMHC Neil Barrett.
Community members are signing up for housing with the idea of possibility. The Akisqnuk Housing Society along with its 2016 Housing Strategy will be able to support housing initiatives within the community while increasing cultural and linguistic perpetuation and guidance for future generations by creating a solid foundation in housing, providing stability, and growth opportunities.
“This first six-plex marks a wonderful moment for the Akisqnuk Nation. It’s a transcendent moment for the six families,” said Akisqnuk Economic Development Officer, Heather Rennebohm.
Lead image: Akisqnuk First Nation celebrates its first housing project in 25 years at its rec centre on Friday March 15. Back to front row (left to right): Rod Hill, Will Nixon, Councillor Donald Sam, Neil Barrett, Michael Sadler, Stella De Magalhaes Sam, Lisa Chapman, Danna Locke, and Chief Alfred Joseph. Photo credit Erin Knutson