By Breanne Massey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A log home that’s being built for elders at the Akisqnuk First Nation recently broke ground with a small gathering of community members.

On Nov. 4, Akisqnuk First Nation housing manager Dale Shudra and his teams hosted a community barbecue for labourers, chief and council as well as the community behind the hockey rink near the band hall.

The lunch-hour event took place on ancestral lands at the Akisqnuk First Nation with delegates from ThinkBright, Trappeur Homes and the housing department to showcase the first of four new three-plexes being built to support housing needs from the nation’s members.

“The walls are going up on an elder three-plex,” said Shudra about the first building at the recently surveyed sight.

“Akisqnuk First Nation is excited to be working with Trappeur Homes to construct these attractive and functional log homes. These units, along with a second three-plex to be constructed in 2021, present great strides in better caring for Akisqnuk First Nation’s elders for years to come. In addition to the project providing shelter, it is also gratifying to see many members working alongside, and being mentored by, local contractors.”

There were a handful of people present at the ceremony to hear opening remarks about the project.

Shudra successfully secured $1,200,00 from Indigenous Services Canada in June to support the development of housing for elders in a three-plex.

While the newly erected three-plex is the first of four three-plexes in a housing project intended to support elders from the community over time. Shudra remains optimistic that the first three-plex project’s completion can be utilized to help to inform costs for subsequent projects in 2021.

In addition, the Akisqnuk First Nation’s housing department received funding from BC Housing and the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) to support the housing project for elders in the community. However, the CBT was unavailable to provide a comment before the Pioneer went to press.

Shudra praised the workforce for their effort and time dedicated to delivering the housing project — a sentiment that was echoed by many.

Akisqnuk First Nation chief Ryan Nicholas opened the ceremony by greeting attendees, while praising Shudra and his workforce for their dedication.

“I wanted to thank everyone who has come to join us on this lovely day on the Ktunaxa territory,” Nicholas told the crowd. “Today, we are taking a giant step that we have been waiting to take for many years. We are starting the construction of one of two elder complexes.”

He added that the nation’s future is rooted in supporting elders and families in need of housing at the community level. Nicholas is optimistic that the elder’s housing project will help bring families closer together upon completion of the project.

“And I want to thank Dale Shudra for keeping the housing (project) going through all of the problems that arose within the band office and most of all the pandemic we are currently facing,” Nicholas concluded. “I’m glad to see so many faces here today to celebrate us moving forward as a community.”

Councillor Lillian Rose led a prayer for the nation and its attending to earmark the start of the log laying ceremony last week. She spoke with admiration for the longevity of the project and expressed gratitude to the Creator for guiding a housing project that will benefit families from the community.

Rose also praised Shudra for his hard work and dedication to securing funding for the housing projects in-place in spite of uncertainty and change over the course of the past several months.

Labourers from both the six-plex and the three-plex projects attended the event to learn more about the initiative.

Akisqnuk First Nation interns Justin Grosso and Bobby Morgan networked with the community, while taking turns grilling at the barbecue.

Grosso made rounds at the event to learn more about how various attendees came to arrive that day.

Through a high collaborative working agreement, Trappeur Homes partners Aaron Cameron and Max Fanderl began serving the community as project managers to help facilitate training and mentoring for members of the Akisqnuk First Nation and the Ktunaxa Nation Council. The duo hopes to support the community develop workforce skills, while successfully supporting the Columbia Valley communities it serves.

“Trappeur Homes specializes in innovative construction, high-efficient, prefabricated and custom designed dovetail log home walls, windows, doors and timber frame construction packages,” said Fanderl. “The companies aim to educate people on building techniques and innovations that we believe have great value in today’s building industry. We are particularly proud of our recent collaboration with the Akisqnuk First Nation, where the band will be learning on-site as the general contractor to build their own residential housing.”

After each delegate spoke at the log laying ceremony, Cameron and Fanderl presented chief Nicholas with a case of maple syrup with a chuckle at the log laying ceremony. Nicholas thanked the duo for their gift and for their support on the housing project.

Afterwards, attendees dispersed to talk in small groups about current events while waiting for hamburgers and hot dogs outside of the work-site; while others admired the log home structures.

Cameron provided 1-1 demonstrations for interested attendees to learn more about the durability of the building’s dovetail corner’s, and he answered questions from those interested in learning more about the products.

Former Akisqnuk chiefs Lorne Shovar and Alfred Joseph admired the craftsmanship on site and spent time discussing the project in-depth with Cameron while others ate.

Councillor Theresa Kains and her family attended the windy event to show support for the initiative as well.