After nearly 30 years, the Pauquachin First Nation is beginning work on a two-pavilion gathering space, featuring a much-anticipated longhouse.
The golden shovel was dug into the ground of an old rock quarry in North Saanich Friday morning by Chief Rebecca David, marking the first step in building the new community space for members of the Pacquachin First Nation.
“That’s why this is exciting, to finally get a gathering place for our people,” said David.
In 2013, the First Nation began the Legacy Gathering Space project. One building would serve as an emergency building and band hall, and the other would be a longhouse.
With a price tag north of $8.5 million, the building will have a dining hall, commercial kitchen, storage areas, a library and office spaces. The emergency building is able to hold up to 400 people if needed.
“Ninety-nine per cent of the time it’ll be used for fun. We’re looking at a food forest to build as well. So bringing back traditional medicine and encouraging that use for that traditional space,” said Rohit Nundy, project manager.
The Pauquachin First Nation hasn’t had a longhouse since 1996, after its old one collapsed due to a blizzard.
“It’s really heart-touching for [the] community to know that this is basically moving forward and the legacy itself — that’s why it’s called legacy gathering space,” said David.
Tradition is a priority in the longhouse, which will feature angled roofs like the ones from the past.
The project’s architect says the inside of the longhouse will have a feature to connect people with their ancestors.
“The longhouse will have an earthen floor so that people can dance on the footprints of their ancestors. So there’s this connection with the ancient past but also with the future and the young people,” said Nancy Mackin.
Funding for the project was provided by the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. The First Nation is hoping to have the project completed by the end of 2024.