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Fort William to open new powwow grounds

Thursday March 6, 2014
Crystallee Mouland/Special to Wawatay News

Fort William’s Director of culture and recreation Phil Pelletier.

New powwow grounds are expected to be constructed and open by July 1 in Fort William First Nation (FWFN).

“We are in the process of consulting our community about the development plans,” said Phil Pelletier, director of culture and recreation. “Once we have the design we will begin building a new powwow facility.”

Located on Animikii-wajiw (Mt. McKay), the facility will feature semi-circular bleachers including ground-floor. Seating capacity will be geared for 500 people.

The new facility will be designed to include a perimeter partial cover and cement walkway, ability to view into the grounds from outside of it and Aboriginal and natural mountain décor.

“We will have four entrances with the colours that represent First Nations,” said Pelletier.
True Grit Consulting Ltd. of Thunder Bay is currently designing the blue prints for the new outdoor arena.

Pelletier admits there is a divide in the community between keeping the mountain a sacred natural space and cultural economic development.

“The band administration is consulting with the community to bridge the gap between the two concerns,” said Pelletier.

The total construction cost is expected to be about $150,000. Fort William First Nation will be covering the planning and construction costs. Pelletier said they hope to apply and receive cultural grants to ease costs.

“Once the plans are drawn up formal grant applications can be made,” said Pelletier.

Fort William is researching the opportunity to incorporate local natural materials like Black Ash and labour for construction.

“We want to use as much local wood and workers as possible,” said Pelletier. “The material will be determined by cost.”

The biggest issues the community faces in trying to build a new facility is parking, lack of water supply and ensuring the mountain doesn’t become commercialized, said Pelletier.

“Right now, there is no running water on the mountain,” said Pelletier. “We are creating a strategic plan and consulting the community about these issues.”

Every July long weekend FWFN hosts their annual powwow. The event is visited annually by thousands of community members, friends, family members, neighbouring communities and tourists.

Cultural sharing, storytelling, food, artisan and dance competition are growing at their social gathering.

Pelletier said they would like to see the event continue to grow bigger with the new facility construction, but the community really has to ensure they balance culture and economic development in their planning.

“We have to blend the powwow facility with the mountain,” said Pelletier. “We need to keep the cultural aspect without commercializing the area.”

Community consultation engagement will continue over the next couple of months until a final design is chosen and construction begins.


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