On June 1, Crystal Smith, chief councillor of Haisla Nation and Darcy McKeown, owner of Progressive Ventures Construction, pose for a photo during the groundbreaking ceremony that was held in Kitamaat Village for the development of a new Haisla Youth Centre, which will be adjacent to the soccer field. (Haisla Nation video screenshot)

On June 1, Crystal Smith, chief councillor of Haisla Nation and Darcy McKeown, owner of Progressive Ventures Construction, pose for a photo during the groundbreaking ceremony that was held in Kitamaat Village for the development of a new Haisla Youth Centre, which will be adjacent to the soccer field. (Haisla Nation video screenshot)

New youth centre coming to Kitamaat Village

Haisla Youth Centre will have supportive spaces for counselling, tutoring and mental health

Haisla youth will be getting a dedicated space in the coming years as the grounds have officially been broken for a Haisla Youth Centre, adjacent to the soccer field.

“I remember my youth, growing up in our community, and we had a little space in our Rec Centre,” Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith said at a small groundbreaking ceremony that was held June 1. “And I have very fond memories of not only having a space of our own but building relationships that have lasted my entire lifetime.”

On the main floor, the Haisla Youth Centre will have recreational activities including pool tables and a change room in the building to support the use of the soccer field, offset with supportive spaces for counselling, tutoring and mental health.

A large kitchen will also be installed in the centre so youth can learn about harvesting, preparing, and serving food – particularly traditional foods.

The centre will also have views of the ocean and will be a part of a complex that will also include an outdoor bandshell – which has received grant funding of $48,194 from the Nechako-Kitamaat Development Fund. Though the primary use of the outdoor bandshell will be used by youth, it will also be used for art performances with traditional Haisla dancing, drumming, singing, story-telling, and other tradition-based art forms.

“Through its design, the outdoor and indoor features will be inter-connected and will lean on culture and language as a major focus both in its look and in what programming will be offered,” Haisla Nation stated in a press release.

The building was designed by McElhanney Engineering and Mackin Tanaka Architecture, with Progressive Ventures Construction heading the construction of the building.

With sea level expected to increase the elevation of high tides by about 0.4m in the next 100 years, McElhanney Engineering stated that the floor elevation for the new youth centre is established to be above tsunami wave level if such a wave occurred during a high, high tide.

“To mitigate those potential effects, the building has been designed so that the foundation walls extend above the floor level. In the very unlikely event that the building is ever subjected to flooding, cleanup will be much less costly since the primary structural system for the building will be high and dry,” McElhannney Engineering stated in a report on the building.

The youth centre and bandshell will also neighbour another future building, ‘The Lighthouse’, a family counselling centre from Northwest Inter-Nation Family & Community Services Society (NIFCS).

Funding support has been provided from the New Spaces Fund, under the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and from Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve, a program of First Nations Health Authority.

“This investment in Kitamaat Village creates a focal point for young people to enjoy the arts, while ensuring Haisla culture and traditions have a platform to reach locals and attract visitors,” Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation said in a press release.

No estimated budget has been publicized for the youth centre at this time as Haisla Nation and other investors are still pursuing additional funding for the project.

READ MORE: Haisla reclaim their native language through word collection workshops



jacob.lubberts@northernsentinel.com