River valley projects to celebrate Edmonton's indigenous past

Edmonton's indigenous community is hoping a series of projects in the river valley will help celebrate the city's rich aboriginal and trading history.

Series of 8 art and cultural projects to cost $85 million

An artistic rendition depicts the proposed Indigenous Center for Art and Knowledge designed by renowned architect and Edmontonian Douglas Cardinal. (Spirit of Edmonton)

Edmonton's indigenous community is hoping a series of projects in the river valley will help celebrate the city's rich aboriginal and trading history.

The Spirit of Edmonton is made up of eight projects, including a $40-million Indigenous Centre for Art and Knowledge, which will finally tell the story of Edmonton's rich aboriginal history, says Lewis Cardinal, president of the Indigenous People's Art and Culture Coalition.

"What we'll see here is an inclusion of indigenous presence within the city of Edmonton," he said.

"My brother Lorne and I we grew up right in the centre here and what we found is that there was no place for us to go to really connect or see and touch and feel anything that was indigenous."

Lewis Cardinal says his grandchildren will walk taller, seeing Louise Umphreville's name on a fountain planned for Rossdale.

"The indigenous woman was a key figure in the pemican trade and is buried in the area," he said.

Other projects include: a $6-million ceremonial centre,  a $35-million  Indigenous Peoples Experience at Fort Edmonton Park, a $3.5-million art gallery at Donald Ross School, a $2-million art and cultural showcase at the Shaw Conference Centre and an indigenous cultures and natural history trail in the river valley.

The showpiece project, the Indigenous Centre for Art and Knowledge, was designed by Edmonton's Douglas Cardinal, designer of the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.

Architect hopes centre will raise dignity

"I've always wanted to return home to Edmonton and do something special," he said.

Cardinal said the Indigenous Centre for Art and Knowledge will be his most important project and hopes the centre with its flowing design can recapture the spirit of his people.

"To have a place to share the knowledge and wisdom of people that have been here thousands of years ... will help the young people, because that can raise the spirit and dignity and self worth of people who have so long been discriminated," he said.

The building designed to look like its rising naturally out of the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, will stand where the Terrace Building currently sits at 95h Avenue and 107th Street.

The series of projects are expected to cost about $85 million.

Organizers hoped all eight would be done by 2017, Canada's 150th anniversary.

With files from CBC's Gareth Hampshire