Muheim Elementary School students sing to Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre staff on National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21. (Thom Barker photo)

Muheim Elementary School students sing to Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre staff on National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21. (Thom Barker photo)

Indigenous housing project announced on National Indigenous Peoples Day

The Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society will be building a 23-unit development at Main and 10th

National Indigenous Peoples Day was a low-key, mainly online event in Smithers, but produced a big announcement.

On June 21, the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society announced its Indigenous housing project had been selected by BC Housing to proceed.

The 23-unit development intended to address housing needs of Elders and families in Smithers will be located on 10th Avenue at Main Street, a municipally-owned site.

“Affordable housing for urban Indigenous people has been a key strategic priority for the Dze L K‘ant Friendship Centre in the past five years,” the society said in a press release. “In 2018 the organization hired a housing advisor and began a partnership with experienced development consultants Lu’ma Development Management to move these goals forward.”

Dze L K’ant said it is a unique project for BC Housing comprising a larger number of three- and four-bedroom units designed to be culturally-informed and recognizing the need to accommodate growing families and intergenerational living.

“The Dze L K’ant Housing Society’s Board and staff will be working closely with the local community, as well as those Indigenous leaders in B.C. who are already successfully operating Indigenous housing, to ensure our project creates a strong sense of belonging and cultural safety,” said Lydia Howard, Dze L K’ant housing advisor.

The Town of Smithers intends to have the L.B. Warner site, formerly the Ministry of Highwys works yard, remediated by December. Dze L K’ant anticipates construction starting in Spring 2022.

Meanwhile, National Indigenous Day celebrations proceeded on the Dze L K’ant facebook page with various community members sharing videos of messages, music, story-telling and prayers.

Results of a scavenger hunt and colouring contest were also announced.

Ther were a couple of in-person events as well.

In the morning, students from two classes at Muheim Elementary School walked over to the friendship centre where they sang a song for staff and presented residential school survivor Sonia Palmer with a heart.

At lunch time, the centre served up soup and bannock to go at the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue.