Ogimaawabiitong (Kenora Chiefs Advisory) is sending a Miigwetch to everyone who was able to join May 7’s ceremony in honour of the new location for the Wiigwas Elder and Senior Care building.

Representatives and leadership of KCA, Wiigwas, the Lake of the Woods District Hospital, and the City of Kenora joined together at the Discovery Centre to honour and recognize the property, which will be co-located with the All Nations Hospital.

Opening ceremonies included traditional songs and drumming, with a water ceremony led by Elder Agnes Paul. Elders George Land and Allan White led the land blessing. Mayor Andrew Poirier congratulated Wiigwas for their vision and partnerships that have been created, with Wiigwas CEO Tania Cameron thanking her staff for their work ahead of the transition into the future building.

“This is a big step forward for First Nations people in our area, as for the first time our area is going to see a Long-Term Care Home that truly puts culture at the center focus of all the work that is being done,” said Chief Chris Skead, on behalf of the Board of Directors for Wiigwas Elder and Senior Care.

“It’s such a momentous occasion to celebrate this huge milestone for Wiigwas, and to have the home in a co-located space with the new All Nations Hospital will allow us to create service linkages we haven’t had before. I am excited to continue to watch the hard work unfold and for the day we will be able to open the doors to the home and say welcome,” concluded Skead.

The event closed with a traditional feast and travel song for the guests. On May 8, KCA’s Cultural Coordinator, Reno Cameron, and Wiigwas staff member, Kerry Livingstone, marked the four points of the property between Lakeview Drive and Norman Drive with pieces of birch, before performing another land blessing at each location.

At present time, Wiigwas Elder and Senior Home is located on Lakeview Drive in Kenora, however, when the Chiefs of KCA purchased the home in 2019, it was a collective decision that this would not be the final location. The current home is in a very dire state and the costs to bring the current building up to all standards while also providing a safe and welcoming space for the residents was going to be an extremely massive undertaking.

After discussions with the communities of Wauzhushk Onigum and Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the Board of Directors for Wiigwas Elder and Senior Care passed a resolution for the new build to be located on a piece of property owned by KCA at the former Kenora Forest Products site.

With this decision now made, over the next few months the team responsible for the oversight of the new build will be working closely with the leadership, design team, Ministry, and all those involved in this project to see how the next steps will shape out.

The proposed new build will be a 160-bed state-of-the-art facility emphasizing Anishinaabe culture and traditions, with licensing approved by the Ministry of Long-Term Care. The new Wiigwas build will also create culturally safe spaces for sweat lodge, cultural gatherings, teaching lodge, and harvesting.

KCA will also pursue on-reserve supportive housing for our respective First Nation Elders, in partnership with Wiigwas.