A large stretch of land along Kenaston Boulevard is now officially a First Nations reserve.
On Friday, the former Kapyong Barracks location officially became the Joint Reserve land base of seven Treaty One First Nations.
For nearly two decades, Indigenous leaders have fought to make the land the spot of an urban reserve. On Monday, Treaty One, the group leading the push, announced it is now a reality.
Former Treaty One chairperson Dennis Meeches called it “a very historic day.”
“We worked hard on this file for over 20 years. Past and present chiefs. This was a difficult one for us,” Meeches said.
The legal battle for the reserve, now called Naawi-Oodena, began in 2007 when Treaty One Nations Members challenged the Government of Canada after the government planned to sell the land without consulting them.
Eight years later, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in Treaty One’s favour. In 2019 – the government and Treaty One leaders signed a settlement agreement for 68 per cent of the land.
“I never thought in my lifetime to imagine what I heard today,” Elder Ernie Daniels said during Monday’s announcement.
Ground will break this spring to create hundreds of residential and business spaces.
The first of three phases will see 300,000 square feet of commercial space and one hundred residential units. The group says $25 million in infrastructure will be required to support the development over the course of five years.
The second phase will begin in year six of the plan. It will add 600 more residential spaces and 400,000 square feet of commercial space, requiring $30 million for infrastructure.
The third and final phase, set to begin in year 11 of the plan, will add 400 residential units and 350,000 square feet of business space. Treaty One says $29 million will be needed to support this phase of development.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ Grand Chief Cathy Merrick says, “it is a giant step towards the largest urban reserve in Manitoba and Canada.”
The group says for 20 years – they have been working together to claim the land – and now – the next generation will see the benefits.
“Winnipeg’s always been a centre of economic activity for our communities for thousands and thousands of years,” Treaty One Chairperson Gordon Bluesky said. “So this isn’t something new for us. Unfortunately, we have had a bit of a disruption throughout our history which we are starting to reconcile today.”
Bluesky says they are eager to begin construction.
“We’re all happy to be where we are. It’s huge. It’s a huge benefit not only for our First Nations but for Winnipeg as well.”
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