PEI

P.E.I. Mi'kmaq community excited new headquarters is almost complete

Mi'kmaq organizations on P.E.I. will soon have a place to call home, on the Charlottetown waterfront. 

'We're hoping to have this as a place for people ... to really come and learn about the Indigenous people'

'I feel very blessed to be able to be working in this building and gaining that knowledge to bring back to my community members,' says Drew Bernard, assistant site supervisor for the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils building in Charlottetown. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Mi'kmaq organizations on P.E.I. will soon have a place to call home, on the Charlottetown waterfront. 

The new building at the corner of Water and Hillsborough streets has been under construction for the last year and is now nearing completion. 

"This room here is the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils room, where both of the bands will be coming together to discuss matters that affect all Indigenous people on the Island," said Drew Bernard, proudly showing off the soaring ceilings and stunning panoramic views of Charlottetown from large windows in the curved room. The 23-year-old is assistant site supervisor for the project, and a member of Lennox Island First Nation.

The Epekwitk Assembly of Councils building may usher in a new era for Indigenous people on P.E.I. — the $5.5 million property will be owned, operated and occupied by Mi'kmaq organizations.

It's really important to have Indigenous people be involved in the creation of these things.— Drew Bernard

Work will still be underway at ground level on the building in January, when the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. and other Indigenous groups start moving into the upper floors.

This building is intended to increase the profile of Indigenous people and kickstart new economic opportunities for them.

'I feel very blessed'

So far the building has two tenants. L'nuey, the Epekwitk Mi'kmaq rights initiative, will be occupying the third floor and the Mi'kmaq Confederacy will be moving into the second floor. The councils hope to have the ground-floor tenant or tenants confirmed early in the new year. Parts of the ground floor will be open to the general public, to showcase Indigenous art, culture and entrepreneurship. About 80 people will work in the building. 

The Epekwitk Assembly of Councils building has become a prominent feature on the Charlottetown waterfront. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"We're hoping to have this as a place for people in Charlottetown and in P.E.I. to really come and learn about the Indigenous people," Bernard said. 

"It's really important to have Indigenous people be involved in the creation of these things, to really gain some knowledge to bring back to the community, and I feel very blessed to be able to be working in this building and gaining that knowledge to bring back to my community members."

Much of the building's red sandstone, native wood and Mi'kmaq designs have already revealed the buildings rich, eclectic design that meshes history and elements from nearby buildings with a modern twist. 

With the Charlottetown cruise ship terminal nearby, P.E.I.'s Indigenous presence will be among the first things tens of thousands of visitors see.

Workers survey one of the rooms at the new Epekwitk Assembly of Councils building in Charlottetown. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

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With files from Brian Higgins

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