News / Edmonton

Edmonton's first Indigenous ceremonial site goes to city council for final approval Tuesday

Councillors set to discuss the environmental impact assessment for Kihciy Askiy, which advocates say is the first permanent Indigenous ceremonial site in Canada

Lewis Cardinal spearheaded the Kihciy Askiy project.

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Lewis Cardinal spearheaded the Kihciy Askiy project.

A decade after a group of Edmontonians first proposed a permanent Indigenous ceremonial site in the heart of the river valley, the project needs to clear just one more hurdle before construction can get underway.

On Tuesday, administration will present city council with the environmental assessment report for Kihciy Askiy, which is pronounced KIH-chee-ASK-ee, and means ‘Sacred Earth’ in Cree. If approved, the city could go ahead and aquire a development permit and start construction.

Advocates say it would be the first of its kind in Canada.

“It’s taken an incredible amount of time to move it this far,” said Lewis Cardinal, a community advocate who spearheaded the first proposal for the project.

“I think that the due process we have gone through to develop it is going to be moved forward, so I’m really positive.”

City council has already approved a total budget of $4.51 million for the project, which would include a gathering place, permanent fire pit, and sweat lodge, plus facilities like storage buildings, washrooms and change rooms.

The proposal also includes plans to encourage the growth of original plant species.

Cardinal says Kihciy Askiy is a much needed facility in Edmonton.

“Indigenous people need to have a place where they can attend to their ceremony and their cultural needs,” he said. “We don't have a place right now, we don’t have a mosque, a church or a temple that we can go to."

“More importantly it’s about our youth being able to access indigenous cultural and  spiritual traditions and ceremonies within the city.”

Plans for the site were first drawn up in 2008, when the Indigenous Elders Cultural Resource Circle Society submitted a proposal to the city for a cultural site at the former location of Fox Farms, south of Fox Drive and east of Whitemud Drive.

In 2014, Mayor Don Iveson highlighted the project as a commitment to the Year of Reconciliation.

Coun. Aaron Paquette says looking at the environmental report he's hopeful it will get the green light Tuesday.

“So far everything looks like it has been done pretty responsibly,” he said.

He added that Kihciy Askiy will prove a “gift” for all Edmontonians.

“It's something that is very important for all Edmontonians not just for now but for generations to come. This is something that reminds us that our history in Edmonton is longer than 150 years.”

If approved, construction would begin in mid or late 2018 and would expected to be completed by 2019.

Cardinal wants the project to be an example for the rest of the country.

“I think that it will help other cities realize that they can do things like this when they work with their indigenous community."

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