Groundbreaking Ceremony Marks Start of Wiidookodaadiwin Healing Lodge Near Fort Frances

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Eagle Flying Indigenous News

Couchiching First Nation – Indigenous News – Giishkaandago’Ikwe Health Services has commenced construction of the Wiidookodaadiwin Healing Lodge, a new sanctuary aimed at supporting women overcoming difficult situations.

This significant milestone was celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony on Agency One land near Fort Frances on April 25.

A Vision for Healing: The Origins of the Healing Lodge

The idea for the lodge was inspired by the women’s council of Grand Council Treaty #3, envisioning a network of shelters spread throughout the four cardinal directions. “They had wanted to see a shelter in [each of] the four directions,” said CEO Kayla Caul-Chartier. The new lodge, located just east of Fort Frances, represents the southern beacon of hope in Treaty Three Territory.

Overcoming Funding Challenges

The journey to the groundbreaking has been arduous and filled with financial hurdles. “We started the project in December of 2021,” Caul-Chartier explained. Despite facing several rejections, persistence paid off as they secured the necessary $5 million through the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation and Indigenous Services Canada. However, due to inflation, the initial plan to build 14 units was scaled down to eight, with provisions for future expansion.

Design and Future Expansion Plans

The design of the Wiidookodaadiwin Healing Lodge, crafted by MCM Architects from Winnipeg, features eight rooms akin to hotel accommodations, complete with a common area for cooking and dining. Matix Lumber, also based in Winnipeg, has taken on the role of general contractor for the project.

Holistic Support Services for Women

Beyond providing shelter, the lodge aims to offer comprehensive support services. “We offer a multitude of services currently,” Caul-Chartier noted, highlighting that the lodge will provide counselling, case management support, cultural teachings, and safe care opportunities. This holistic approach is designed to foster healing and resilience among its residents.

The ceremony itself was deeply symbolic, featuring drum songs and tobacco offerings. Elders at the event encouraged women present to contribute a pinch of tobacco to the earth, marking their collective hope and blessings for the project’s success.

Looking forward, construction is anticipated to begin this month, with completion expected within 12-13 months, ushering in a new era of support and recovery for women in the community.

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