CELEBRATING - Celebratory drum songs were played by members of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society during the official groundbreaking of the first phase of the Asooahum Crossing Project. Various community members and dignitaries gathered to celebrate the event last week.

Long awaited cultural centre breaks ground

  • Nov. 12, 2015 4:49 p.m.

After three years of planning and partnerships to bring the Asooahum Crossing project to the City, ground has finally been broken at 4615 Riverside Dr.

The facility is a collaboration project between the City of Red Deer, the Red Deer Native Friendship Society (RDNFS), the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association (ANFCA) and the Alberta government. The project will be rolled out in three phases, with the first portion officially underway.

“The first phase of the project is 16 units (two eight-plexes). The second phase is an apartment building which will have 22 units in it, and the culture centre will be attached to that as phase three,” said ANFCA Executive Director Tanya Schur.

“Today was an opportunity to celebrate the work we’ve done in the last three years, but also to launch a capital fundraising campaign. This is a $12 million project, and we have $7 million committed so we are looking for the remainder. People can donate online, call us and pledge or take part in our capital fundraising and community events.”

This project includes housing developments, an outdoor space for ceremonies and programming, an Aboriginal Youth Centre for Success, a community garden, a tea house, office space and interpretive elements within a cultural centre. As well, a community hall will be a part of the project that will be open to all citizens of the City.

“Asooahum is a verb: it means the act of crossing. The Asooahum Crossing community is not a place, it’s a process. It’s a process of crossing into a better life. That’s really what this is going to represent, and that is the purpose of putting a culture centre and cultural grounds along with housing – the supports will be there for the community members and the culture will be there. That’s the beauty of having a community hall that will be open to everybody in Red Deer, but will be located inside of this cultural space,” Schur said.

Darren Tootoosis, president of the RDNFS, said the project would not have been possible without partnerships with the City and other community members.

“We’ve formed a joint steering committee with the City to go through all of the issues, expected and unexpected, and as a way to help navigate the processes. That was very important. We’ve also had guidance from elders in our community to ensure that our vision for what we needed would be maintained in the process,” Tootoosis said.

On the same day, the local movement of the I Am A Kind Man campaign was launched. The campaign is a way for men in the community – Aboriginal or not – to pledge their allegiance to stand against violence towards Indigenous women and girls.

“I Am A Kind Man is an awareness campaign. It is there to bring to light that (violence against Aboriginal women and girls) is a real issue. It’s a way to engage the men in communities to be better men – to be kind men, and to take accountability for our responsibilities – especially to our women,” Tootoosis said.

A variety of community members, City officials and other dignitaries gathered at the event on Nov. 6th. to show support for the project.

kmendonsa@reddeerexpress.com

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