After years of talks, work is set to start on an ambitious First Nations-owned development in Saskatoon that includes a new home for the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN).
A sod-turning ceremony on the land Thursday marks the three years it took to get there. The 40 acres of land, close to the Saskatoon airport, is owned by the Kahkewistahaw First Nation.
The first phase of the project will be erecting the new building for FSIN. FSIN leases part of the land from Kahkewistahaw First Nation and will own the building.
“It’s a symbolic day. It’s an important day for all of us,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron, adding FSIN plans to have construction finished by next fall.
Kahkewistahaw First Nation said it also plans to build a gas station. That project, and the new FSIN building, are expected to cost around $5 million each, according to Chief Evan Taypotat.
It’s also planning on building a hotel and convention centre, and while Taypotat doesn’t have a price-point yet, he expects construction to cost upwards of $100 million.
“A lot of First Nation dollars come into this city and are spent everywhere and sometimes the treatment isn’t as good as it should be,” he said.
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“We want to make sure that when our people come into this city they feel welcome, that they feel at home.”
Taypotat added the hotel will be open for everyone, not just Indigenous people. He said the finished buildings will create hundreds of jobs.
“On the First Nation side of things we’re going to break that cycle of dependency, we’re going to break that cycle that residential school left but we need those jobs,” he said.
He said he sees youth of all ethnicities on the streets of Saskatoon, and he said he wants to help give them, and many other people, a safe place to work
“You can’t break (the cycle) if you’re just on the street walking around with no money … if they have jobs they have opportunity, if you get a bit of money in your pocket you can do more things with your life.”
Kahkewistahaw First Nation said it’s been approached by companies like Ikea and Amazon about building warehouses on the land.
The First Nation is getting help and some funding from Indigenous Services Canada.