Chippewas of the Thames pitch off-grid experience to tourists

Chippewas Chief Myeengun Henry knows his reserve isn't on the radar of most tourists. But he wants to change that by renting out off-grid tiny houses and teach people about sustainable living.

Chief Myeengun Henry wants to use two hectares of reserve land to showcase sustainable building and living

Myeengun Henry, Chief of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, wants to build a sustainable living project and tourism community on the reserve.

Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Chief Myeengun Henry knows his reserve isn't on the radar of most tourists. 

But he wants to change that. 

Henry hopes that by summer tourists will visit a plot of land being developed on the reserve and stay in off-grid tiny houses made from mostly salvaged materials. 

He'll also be on the two hectare property, living in an Earthship home, complete with solar heating, built using recycled materials. 

"Because of our battles against oil in recent years, we wanted to live up to the standards that we set and show people that we can live alternatively," Henry said. 

Craig Cook gave CBC News a tour of the eco-friendly earthship home he and his wife Connie built out of tires, bottles, cans, dirt and concrete. 2:30

"It will bring people to Chippewa. I think this project is totally unique. I see tourism in other areas where there is swimming and camping, but we don't have that luxury here. In terms of trying to create a tourism on our reserve, we have to be really creative." 

The land being developed will include a sweat lodge, farming to grow traditional food and medicine, storytelling and a fire circle. 

Earthship an anchor to tourism project

An event in London to raise awareness about the sustainable living project brought out many interested people who want to help build the Earthship and tiny houses. 

"We're going to build the tiny houses in London and then bring them here," Henry said. The homes will be built with help from Building Better, a non-profit that helps create sustainable builds. 

The Earthship will be modelled by one at Six Nations of the Grand River near Brantford, the first one built on First Nations soil. 

The Earthship home in Vulcan County, Alberta is self-sufficient, and the couple has a small farm as well. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

Earthships are built entirely out of recycled or salvaged materials.  

Henry said there's been lukewarm reception among community members. 

"On the reserve, people can recall in the 70s living in houses without hydro. So, some people think we're going backwards. It's going to take some convincing," he said. "Once they see it, they'll see it's living in a contemporary house, but with no bills." 

Rent from the tiny houses will go back to the community. 

About the Author

Kate Dubinski

Reporter/Editor

Kate Dubinski is a radio and digital reporter with CBC News in London, Ont. You can email her at kate.dubinski@cbc.ca.