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Idle No More tackles big First Nation housing crisis with tiny homes

The group that started a round dance revolution is turning their attention to solving the chronic housing shortage that many indigenous communities face. A tiny house will be the ultimate holiday gift for one family in Saskatchewan.
Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam (center) with a tiny house under construction, flanked by Mini Homes of Manitoba co-owners Darrell Manuliak and Anita Munn. (Anita Munn)
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They were known for starting a round dance revolution. Now some of the organizers of Idle No More are putting their hearts into starting another movement — one they hope will solve the chronic housing shortage that many indigenous communities face.

The group recently kicked off a campaign called One House, Many Nations, to raise awareness about the housing crisis. Then they decided to take it one step further and actually build a house for someone.

Using crowdfunding, the group raised more than $15,000 in just a few weeks.

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)
University of Saskatchewan professor 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, Saskatchewan, her home community.

"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."

"Of course Idle No More is not in the business of building homes," she added.

"But we are really good at connecting people and so that's how we became connected with Mini Homes of Manitoba."

Indigenous activists have partnered with a Manitoba company to provide a truly unique home for a Saskatchewan First Nation family. 2:11
Mini Homes of Manitoba is a new Winnipeg-based company specializing in designing and building energy efficient, compact mobile houses.

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

At 128 square 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.

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

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.

Now the last push is on to make the holiday deadline. Since all of the money initially raised went into building the house, there were no funds to actually move it.

After a public appeal, a couple stepped forward to transport it with a truck. And the group started another crowdfunding campaign to help with the costs.

The new campaign has already raised over $1,300 of a $4,000 goal, which will make an amazing gift for one lucky family on the Big River First Nation.

"This house will mean that one family will have a warm and safe place to live," said Wilson.

"And it's something that we all take for granted as a human right."

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