Award-winning Métis author Aaron Paquette to speak at Red Deer fundraiser

Native Friendship Centre is raising donations for a new Asooahum Culture Centre

Métis storyteller, artist and award-winning author Aaron Paquette will speak at a fundraiser for a planned indigenous cultural centre for Red Deer.

Paquette won the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit literature in 2015 for his debut fantasy novel Lightfinder. As a painter, his best known work is a mural at Edmonton’s Grandin LRT Station. Paquette, who’s of Cree, Cherokee and Norwegian descent, is also the president of the Cree8 Success consulting firm.

He will be in Red Deer on Wednesday, March 22, to speak to school students during the day. That evening, he will address a benefit audience at the Red Deer Public Schools district office.

“We want to create a story circle, and Aaron will talk about his new book,” said Tanya Schur, who works at the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre and is director of the new Asooahum Crossing. She believes the event will be of particular interest to writers, teacher and librarians.

It’s being held to raise donations for the construction of the city’s first indigenous culture centre. It’s estimated to cost $4-million, and is planned for next to the Asooahum Crossing, which is under construction at 4615 Riverside Drive, next to the Lion’s Campground.

The residential complex is being built in two stages. The first phase of 16 affordable living suites for aboriginal and non-aboriginal residents is expected to be completed in May. Schur said 70 per cent of the $2.9 million cost was funded by the federal government. She hopes grants will be available for the second phase of another 16 suites, in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre is raising public donations for the construction of a community culture centre the size of the Golden Circle. Schur said it would be a multi-purpose space that would bring aboriginal culture to the wider community.

When completed, Schur envisions moving some programs from the Native Friendship Centre to the new centre. “We would keep our outreach program downtown,” she added, but move others.

Tickets to the 7 p.m. fundraiser, featuring Paquette, are $20 from the Native Friendship Centre.

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