Mini Homes of Manitoba - mini house

Idle No More has partnered with Mini Homes of Manitoba to construct a tiny home like this for a family on a Saskatchewan First Nation. (Mini Homes of Manitoba)

Indigenous activists have partnered with a Manitoba company to provide a truly unique home for a Saskatchewan First Nation family.

Leaders from Idle No More raised more than $15,000 for a tiny home, which is being built by Mini Homes of Manitoba. The new Winnipeg-based company specializes in designing and building energy-efficient, compact mobile houses. 

The company aims to have a home completed before Christmas, which will be delivered by truck to a family of four on the Big River First Nation, 190 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

University of Saskatchewan Prof. Alex Wilson said the idea for the tiny home came when Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam saw housing conditions on the Big River First Nation, her home community.

Alex Wilson tiny house

Idle No More's Alex Wilson says tiny houses are an affordable, sustainable way to make a dent in the First Nation housing crisis. (CBC)

"Big River, like all First Nations across Canada, has a serious housing crisis," Wilson said.

"One guy in particular was living in basically a dugout pit that he had sides on. Other families were squatting in homes without electricity that were condemned."

In response, a campaign called One House, Many Nations was launched in October. It aims to raise awareness about the housing crisis and provide assistance to people living in desperate housing conditions.

This will be the first of three tiny homes One House, Many Nations will build as part of the campaign.

Because Idle No More "isn't in the business of constructing homes," Wilson said, the group connected with Mini Homes of Manitoba, a company owned by two people originally from The Pas.

Before long, Olympic Building Centre, another Manitoba-based company, stepped forward to provide lumber and other materials.

Once finished, the tiny house will actually be quite spacious, Mini Homes co-owner Anita Munn said. 

At 16 by 8 feet, it will feature a kitchen and living area, a bathroom with a composting toilet and radiant floor heating. There will also be solar power and a wood stove for added heating.

Potential solution

"It's going to be a great little home," Munn said, adding that she sees tiny homes as a potential solution to chronic housing shortages in First Nation communities.

Anita Munn and Darryl Manuliak

Anita Munn and Darryl Manuliak are owners of Mini Homes of Manitoba, a company that has partnered with Idle No More to construct a tiny home. (Idle No More)

"Affordable housing is a concern for everybody and that's what we're providing."

Wilson hopes this tiny house will be just the first in a series of sustainable housing projects. Recently, Idle No More challenged students at Harvard University to design affordable, accessible housing using wooden pallets.

Three students, part of Harvard's graduate school of design, came back instead with a system to use old wooden pallets to create environmentally friendly building material.

"We proposed transforming these wooden pallets, currently being chopped up and burned as fuel, into solid wood panels that could be configured into a building," the students wrote.

Wilson hopes the panels will one day go into building more homes in First Nation communities.

Transportation appeal

While most tiny homes are built on wheeled trailers, the One House, Many Nations model will have skids — large, heavy rails at the base that give it stability while maintaining mobility.

Getting the house to northern Saskatchewan, however, is proving a challenge. The tiny home needs to be transported by truck and the funds Idle No More has raised are all going into building it, not moving it.

Wilson and Mini Homes of Manitoba hope someone will step forward to either pay for the move or provide a truck they can drive themselves.

Idle No More sees tiny house as solution to huge problem2:11