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Pebble Beach soon to house cultural centre


Last Tuesday (June 16) was mino kisikow for the people of Sapotaweyak Cree Nation (SCN), and it was a nice day as community members showed up to the sod turning for a new cultural centre about to be constructed in the area around Pebble Beach on the south shore of Bell River Bay, a short drive west of the SCN settlement.
The costs to develop the area and construct the building are being borne by land-based funding through Jordan’s Principle, an initiative started to make sure that the needs of Indigenous children are met, even while the provincial and federal governments decide who is paying the bill for their healthcare.
Jordan’s Principle was named after Jordan River Anderson, a young First Nations boy from Norway House Cree Nation who passed away in hospital while the provincial and federal governments decided who was going to pay for his medical care.
Among the areas covered by Jordan’s Principle is healthcare needs, social needs and education, which the new cultural centre will be able to serve as a land-based space to teach the children the ways of their people.
“Our children are losing our language,” said SCN Jordan’s Principle coordinator Rhonda Cook. “I’m very focused on trying to get our language back. The way we get our language back is to connect our children to the land through land-based teachings.”
Through the education programs she runs, which helps more than 200 children in the community, she is seeing some progress. One two-year-old girl that Cook works with is already learning and speaking Cree, the language of SCN.
“They’re teaching Cree classes at our school and it’s going well, but we need to teach it at (a younger) level, because these ones are the fastest learners,” said Cook.
It is expected that the shell of the building will be completed in a matter of a few weeks, and Cook has already planned to hold daycamps at the site in August, with resource leaders coming to teach the children land-based skills and working with nature the way their ancestors did.
But, just because the funding came through Jordan’s Principle, doesn’t mean that it will only be used for that purpose. The facility will have a kitchen, a storage area, a couple of nearby gazebos and a large gathering space, making it suitable for any number of community activities and events.
“If you want to have a Bible study, go right ahead,” said Cook. “If you want to take your children over there for some activities, go right ahead. It’s for our people and for our community.”
Cook hopes to see the area around Pebble Beach improved in phases, with funding coming from different areas and working together to build upon what was started in that space, transforming the undeveloped woods into a more featured recreational space.

Jeremy Bergen